Information minister says two people were killed in explosion, preventing anyone from reaching match venue.
Information Minister Pervez Rashid admitted on Saturday that a suicide bomber was responsible for an explosion outside Lahore’s Qaddafi Stadium that killed two people during a Pakistan-Zimbabwe cricket match, as a spokesman for the hosts said the visitors would continue the tour.
Friday’s incident, which triggered a news blackout in Pakistani media, came despite heavy security for the country’s first cricket series on home soil since an attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in March 2009. “The suicide bomber failed to enter the stadium due to the bravery of our police,” Rashid told Geo TV.
The attack took place about 1.5 kilometers from the venue at “the outer security cordon of the stadium,” Rashid said, adding that it did not affect the match.
“The incident has not affected the tour, Zimbabwe’s tour will continue,” a spokesman for the Pakistan Cricket Board said. “Their players have gone shopping today.” Zimbabwe has not yet confirmed whether it will finish the tour.
“We heard a blast during the match on Friday. We do not know what it was. We have held a team meeting to inform everyone that our hosts are coming this afternoon to talk to us about this incident,” said Zimbabwe team spokesman Lovemore Banda.
Security has been ratcheted up for the series with around 4,000 policemen guarding the stadium itself, and a further 2,000 along the route from the Zimbabwe team hotel to the venue. The series, comprised of two Twenty20 matches and three one-day internationals, is the first since the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan team left eight people dead.
After winning both Twenty20 matches, Pakistan also clinched the one-day series by chasing down a target of 269 in 47.2 overs in Friday’s meet. The third and final one-day is to be played at the same venue on Sunday.
Despite Rashid’s comments, Lahore police insisted on Saturday that the incident was an “accidental blast” caused by an auto rickshaw’s gas cylinder exploding. “It was a gas cylinder explosion and not a terrorist act,” a police spokesman told AFP. He said one policeman and the rickshaw driver died.
Police had earlier said the blast was a transformer explosion.
The news was blacked out in Pakistani media until the conclusion of the match in order to prevent panic, a decision Rashid praised in his remarks to Geo.