News24

Sri Lanka players back home

2009-03-04 06:54

Colombo - Sri Lanka's cricketers were reunited with their families after returning home early on Wednesday following an attack by gunmen in Lahore.

The players were welcomed home to Bandaranaike International Airport by friends and families, cricket officials, sports minister Gamini Lokuge and a large media contingent.

Around a dozen gunmen attacked the team's bus on Tuesday with rifles, grenades and rockets, wounding six players and a British assistant coach and killing at least eight Pakistanis.

"It's great to be back in Sri Lanka with our families and loved ones," Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene said after the team's arrival home at 03:20.

"We are still shocked by what has happened but we are relieved that no one in the team suffered more serious injuries or were killed," he added.

Five players and assistant coach Paul Farbrace were transported straight to Nawaloka hospital in central Colombo for checks on their injuries.

The most seriously injured player was Thilan Samaraweera, who was shot in the leg. Doctors will decide on Wednesday whether to try to remove the bullet.

Early reports suggest he would be unable to play cricket for between six to eight weeks.

Tharanga Paranavitana, a 26-year-old playing his first international tour, was the next most seriously injured after being shot in the chest. The bullet, which narrowly missed his heart, was later removed by Pakistan doctors.

"I am fine now," Paranavitana said at the airport. "I feel very lucky."

The other players injured, all of whom suffered minor shrapnel wounds, included Jayawardene (ankle), Kumar Sangakkara (shoulder), Ajantha Mendis (head) and Suranga Lakmal (leg).

Jayawardene was the only player not sent to hospital on the team's return.

Sangakkara paid tribute to the team's bus driver, Mohammad Khalil, for saving lives.

"The truth is that we owe our lives to Khalil for the courage he showed in getting the bus going again after the initial attack and into the stadium," Sangakkara told Reuters.

"After the first shots the bus had come to a halt on the roundabout and we were sitting ducks for the terrorists, but he got us out of there just in time."

Reuters