Pakistan hunts attackers of Sri Lanka cricket team

LAHORE, March 4, 2009 (AFP) – Pakistan stepped up a manhunt on Wednesday for the armed militants behind a deadly ambush targeting Sri Lanka’s cricket team, which has plunged the troubled nation deeper into crisis. It was the first deadly direct assault against a sports team in nuclear-armed Pakistan, where over 1,600 people have died in a wave of Islamist attacks in 22 months.

Pakistani officials said the attack bore the hallmarks of the November 2008 assault on the Indian city of Mumbai, which was blamed on Pakistan-based Islamic militants.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse said the team, which had gone on the quickly arranged tour when India cancelled a trip after the Mumbai attacks, had travelled as “ambassadors of goodwill” to Pakistan.

“I condemn this cowardly terrorist attack,” he said.

Sri Lankan players had an emotional reunion with their families at Colombo’s international airport, where they flew in under tight security early on Wednesday on a specially chartered Sri Lankan Airlines flight.

Star batsman Thilan Samaraweera and Tharanga Paranavithana, who both received gunshot wounds, were placed in an ambulance and taken to a private hospital in Colombo.

Spin bowler Aja