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NZ cricket in Karachi bomb blast

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    'Glass exploded all around'
    09 May 2002

    By RICHARD TROW, MARTIN KAY and NZPA
    The New Zealand cricket tour of Pakistan is off and the team on its way home after a massive bomb blast next to its Karachi hotel yesterday killed 14 people.
    No one has claimed responsibility for the bomb, which destroyed a Pakistan Navy bus parked 50m from the team's hotel and broke windows in some of the cricketers' rooms.

    The bomb exploded five minutes before the Black Caps were due to get on their bus to travel to the National Stadium for the first day of the second test.

    "A few more minutes later and it could have been absolutely catastrophic," New Zealand team manager Jeff Crowe said.

    New Zealand Cricket chief executive Martin Snedden called off the tour 2¼ hours after news of the blast.

    The squad and accompanying New Zealand journalists would return on the first available flight – due to leave Karachi at 1.25am today.

    "The safety of our players must take priority over absolutely everything else that comes into the equation," Mr Snedden said.

    Prime Minister Helen Clark supported the decision to call off the tour.

    "The Government endorses New Zealand Cricket's decision to bring the players home. Clearly, there are security concerns in Pakistan at the moment and the personal safety of the cricketers is paramount," she said.

    The explosion happened at 7.45am (1.45pm NZ time).

    Former New Zealand fast bowler Danny Morrison, in Pakistan as a commentator for the series, was in the Sheraton Hotel, which bore the brunt of the blast.

    He escaped unhurt, but said the scenes outside were horrific.

    "You could see body parts all over the road. It was horrific. You could see torsos, arms and legs everywhere."

    Most of the cricketers were still in their rooms in the nearby Pearl Continental Hotel, but physiotherapist Dayle Shackel was in the team bus ready to go to the ground when the bomb exploded and he suffered a cut arm from flying glass.

    "I just sat down in the bus and opened the curtains and there was a massive bang that just sat me down on the ground," Mr Shackel said.

    "The glass exploded all around me and I wondered what the hell to do next.

    "I was on my own and my thoughts were to get back to where the rest of guys were."

    Officials said 14 people – 11 French navy experts, two Pakistanis and the bomber – were killed and at least 34 others injured, many critically.

    New Zealand's honorary consul in Karachi, Moin Fudda, said the bus was carrying the workers to a dockyard where they were helping to build two submarines.

    Mr Fudda said it appeared a Suzuki van carrying a suicide bomber and laden with explosives smashed into the bus outside the Sheraton Hotel, setting off a massive blast.

    It was not clear what the motive for the attack was, or if the bus was the target. Terrorist activity tended to be limited to attacks on rival groups and was seldom aimed at foreigners, he said.

    New Zealand cricketer Chris Harris said he could think only of his wife and baby once he had recovered from the fright.

    He managed to telephone them almost immediately.

    "I wanted to make sure everyone was all right, then the first thing you think of is your family, my wife and my baby.

    "You don't want her to grow up without a father. You start thinking of things that are more important to you.

    "It certainly puts your life in perspective in a hell of a hurry."

    His wife, Linda, said there were "tears galore" as soon as she heard his voice.

    She said the players were badly shaken. Straight after the blast they had gathered near the hotel swimming pool with the Pakistan team and accompanying journalists to decide what to do next.

    Mr Crowe was in touch with Mr Snedden almost immediately, and assured him everyone was accounted for and unhurt.

    Mr Snedden denied pressure from Asian cricket countries had forced the Black Caps to tour Pakistan, months after an earlier tour was called off amid security concerns after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

    He said it was acknowledged that some of the countries in world cricket were slightly unstable, but NZC had an obligation to tour as soon as it appeared safe to do so.

    Mr Snedden said he had informed Pakistan Cricket Board director Brigadier Munawwar Rana of the decision to bring the team home.

    "I think he entirely understood," he said.

    The tour went ahead after the Asian Cricket Council said New Zealand could face a boycott by India – due to tour in November – if they did not play in Pakistan this year.


 
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