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Gunmen sought, as cricketers return home

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Players Tharanga Paranavitana, Thilan Samaraweera in stable condition
  • Both were shot in the chest and leg, respectively
  • Six other team members were wounded by broken glass and shrapnel
  • Police confirm six officers and a driver of a van carrying umpires were killed
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(CNN) -- Sri Lanka's cricket team returned home to Colombo early Wednesday, as police in Pakistan searched for at least 12 gunmen believed responsible for the attack that left seven people dead.

Police gather beside the wreckage of a police van in Lahore, Pakistan, following Tuesday's attack.

Sri Lankan player Thilan Samaraweera is taken aboard an ambulance Wednesday in Colombo.

Police in Lahore on Wednesday confirmed six police officers and a driver of a van carrying umpires were killed after earlier reports had put the death toll at eight.

Six team members were wounded by glass and shrapnel, and two -- Tharanga Paranavitana and Thilan Samaraweera -- were shot in the chest and leg, respectively. Both men were being treated in Colombo and in stable condition, officials said.

"We are very lucky that no one [sustained] any serious injuries and everyone is in good shape," one player told reporters upon arriving in the capital. "There are a few more guys who need more time to recover. And we can hopefully put this behind us and move forward."

The attack happened Tuesday at about 9 a.m. (11 p.m. ET Monday), as the visiting Sri Lankan team's bus approached Lahore's Gaddafi Stadium for a match against Pakistan. See a map of where the attack took place »

The brazen daylight attack sent shock waves across the cricket-crazy region and raised fears about the future of world cricket matches in Pakistan, which has been reeling from a string of terrorist attacks. iReport: Send us your videos, photos

"The events can only be described as shocking, and we send our sympathy to the relatives of those who lost their lives," International Cricket Council President David Morgan said at a news conference in London Tuesday. "On many occasions we've been told that cricketers would never be targeted in Pakistan. And this morning's events have proved that to be quite incorrect." Video Watch ICC's reaction to the attack »

ICC Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat said none of the teams had been threatened before Tuesday's attack, which happened about 150 meters from the stadium in Lahore.

Investigators cannot yet say who was responsible for the ambush. Video Watch footage of the gunmen staging their attack »

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari praised Pakistani police, saying the officers "rose to the occasion and laid down their lives to protect our Sri Lankan guests." He also telephoned Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to express his condemnation and regrets, and to emphasize his determination to investigate. Video Watch Sri Lankan's foreign minister condemnation of the attack »

Teams have long stayed away from Pakistan, concerned about the security situation in a country that is battling an escalating pro-Taliban insurgency. But Sri Lanka -- a country enduring its own civil war with separatist rebels -- agreed in December to visit for a series of matches, after the Indian cricket team called off its tour following the deadly terror attacks in Mumbai in November. Indian authorities blamed those attacks on Pakistan-based militants.

The Pakistan Cricket Board had said it was set to lose more than $16 million as a result of India's cancellation, but the Sri Lanka visit was to help it recoup most of the costs, officials said.

The Sri Lankan offer to tour was a reciprocal gesture. Pakistan was one of two countries that agreed to tour Sri Lanka during the 1996 World Cup tournament, while other countries refused to travel there because of security concerns.

With this attack, fans now worry that Pakistan won't be able to co-host the 2011 Cricket World Cup with India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Morgan said the ICC's board will be meeting in April to consider whether the Cup will include stops in Pakistan.

"The board will have to think very carefully about the extent to which Pakistan will be used for that event," Morgan said. "It's a very important event, but the safety and security of players, officials and supporters is very important and the board will be taking that into account." Read profiles of the wounded players »

"This has really damaged Pakistan," former Pakistani cricket player Zahir Abbas told Geo-TV. "Already some teams didn't want to come to Pakistan. Now who will come after this incident?"


John Stern, the editor of cricket magazine Wisden, said it was "not possible" to imagine international cricket taking place in Pakistan in the near future. He described the situation for the sport in the country as "desperate." Video Watch how attack strikes at legitimacy of Pakistani government »

He said one possibility for the Pakistani team is to play its matches in the United Kingdom, which has a large Pakistani community.

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