Sri Lanka vows 'cowardly attack' will not affect Pakistan relations

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Pakistan and Sri Lanka, united by a love of cricket, pride themselves on close relations which have been put to the test in the past by a terror attack that almost claimed the life of the Pakistani high commissioner to Sri Lanka two-and-a-half years ago.

Sri Lanka led the condemnations of the assault on its cricket team's bus in Lahore yesterday. President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who cut short a visit to Nepal to return home, condemned the "cowardly terrorist attack" and dispatched his Foreign minister to Pakistan. The Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary, Palitha Kohona, stressed that the attack would not affect ties between the island nation and Pakistan as the government defended its decision to send the team to the Test matches after other countries stayed away from Lahore. "Terrorism is terrorism and almost the entire region of South Asia has experienced it," he said.

The attack came as the Sri Lankan military is in the final stages of its relentless suppression of Tamil separatist rebels in the north-east. The army, which receives weaponry and training from Pakistan, said yesterday that it had seized the last road junction held by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam as soldiers head into a narrow strip of coastal land where the remaining LTTE leaders are believed to be operating.

The deputy high commissioner of Sri Lanka to Britain, Sumith Nakandala, said that LTTE involvement in yesterday's attack could not be ruled out, despite the pummelling they are receiving in Sri Lanka. "You shouldn't underestimate the LTTE," which attacked the Sri Lankan capital in two light planes on 20 February, he said.

The Tamil Tigers invented the suicide attack as a weapon of terror and have carried out many high-profile assassinations during the 25-year civil war. They were blamed for the August 2006 assassination attempt against the Pakistan high commissioner, Bashir Wali Mohammed, that killed seven people in Colombo, during another international cricket tour. But the diplomat, a former spy chief, later accused the Indian external intelligence service, RAW, for the attack.