How many Sri Lankan Cricket fans know Aqeel Ahmed?

Fourteen men led by Aqeel Ahmed set out on the 3rd of March 2009 in two cars and three rickshaws to Lahore’s Liberty Roundabout. Their mission was to attack a convoy carrying the national cricket team of Sri Lanka. The men carried with them AK-47 rifles, grenade launchers, grenades, plenty of ammunition, cell phones, and even food. They were well stocked which suggested there was more to the plan than a five minute ambush.

According to a senior Pakistani police official who spoke to the media last year, Ahmed and his gang had planned to take the Sri Lankan cricketers hostage.

Within Pakistan there are two theories, the players could have been used either as a bargaining tool to free Islamist militants in the custody of the Pakistani state, or the operation was funded by the Tamil Tigers who would have used the players to negotiate a ceasefire in Sri Lanka so their trapped leadership could escape.

Regardless of their motives the plan failed.

A little after 8:30 am on March 3 2009, as the bus carrying the Sri Lankan players approached, the lurking gunmen fired two shoulder launched Rocket Propelled Grenades. Miraculously both missed their intended target. Then others involved in the attack began firing at the police escort.

Pakistan’s lower ranked Police officers who were part of the convoy were unarmed and could not even defend themselves. One of the Police escort vehicles which was drilled with bullets had come to a stop. The attackers then attempted to block the path of the team bus as they continued to fire shots at the driver.

Again, miraculously the driver braved the gunfire to manoeuvre the team out of harm’s way and take the Sri Lankan team to safety. A grenade which was hurled under the team bus exploded spraying shrapnel into the players but could not stop the moving bus.

(Also see: Interview – Muttiah Muralitharan talks of the attacks in Pakistan.)

Later that year Ahmed was arrested. Seven months after the deadly attack on the Sri Lankan team the man who led the attack was apprehended. Several others involved in the attack have either been killed in other gun battles or have been arrested.

A recent article on the New York Times carried more interesting details. Only three of the 14 involved actually knew they were attacking a bus carrying cricketers from Sri Lanka. The rest had been lied to. They were told that the convoy of vehicles was an American delegation.

"In last year’s attack against the Sri Lankan cricket team, led by another educated young man from a working-class family, a 29-year-old nursing assistant, Aqeel Ahmed, only three top people out of about 14 attackers knew the nature of the target, according to a police official who investigated the attack. The rest believed that the bus they were ambushing held an American delegation."

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