COLOMBO The mini-van which was traveling behind the Sri Lanka cricket team and faced the brunt of the fire from the terrorists during last Tuesday's attack was totally abandoned by their Pakistani security contingent, it is revealed.
The van carrying Umpires Simon Toffel, Steve Davis, Nadhim Gouri, Ahsan Raza, umpires performance manager Peter Manuel, liaison officer Abdul Sami and ICC match referee Chris Broad was left completely stranded by their security contingent as gunmen kept on firing at their vehicle, Peter Manuel, the ICC appointed umpires performance manager for East Asia, Sri Lanka and Pakistan told Dawn Sunday.
'It was unbelievable. Bullets were raining on us and not a shot was fired in our defense by the Pakistan security officials,' an outraged Manuel told this writer recalling the horror of being forced to wait for their death without any sign of rescue.
The driver of the vehicle carrying the umpires was shot dead and two others in their vehicle were critically injured.
'We were basically abandoned by the security that was supposed to protect us. The 20 minutes that we were in that situation felt eternal,' says Manuel and described the ordeal further.
'At the Liberty roundabout we heard an explosion between the team bus and our van which was behind the bus. The entire convoy came to a halt. And then the gunfire erupted and we heard Chris Broad shouting at us to duck as our driver was shot dead. By this time we were all alone. The bus carrying the Sri Lanka team had been taken to safety and our police protection had vanished.'
'We understand that situations of terrorism can happen. But what we are outraged at is that there was no effort whatsoever to look into what happened to us following the attack on the bus carrying the Lankan cricketers,' says Manuel.
'We will never be able to describe how terrified we were. The van that was riddled with bullets began to rock due to the explosion of the grenades that were falling short of the vehicle we were in. Ahsan Raza was bleeding from his chest after being shot. The liaison officer who was in the front seat of the van was shot on his neck and was critically injured. Chris was keeping his hands on Raza's chest to stop him from bleeding. Raza's white ICC umpires shirt was soaked in blood. And all along we are desperately praying that some member of the security contingent come and take us to safety,' Manuel said.
However, according to him when the van door finally opened it was by a police officer who wanted to seek shelter in the van from the bullets of the terrorists.
'When the van door opened I thought that was the end of all of us. I thought the terrorist will either massacre us in the van or would drop a grenade. When we saw the police officer we were glad to see him but it is virtually only by shouting at him in a deafening manner that forced him to drive us to safety after he refused several times,' he says.
'It virtually took him less than two minutes to drive us to the stadium and our question is why no one bothered to come to our rescue when we were obviously so close to the Gaddafi stadium,' he points out.