E-mail threat leads South Africa pull out: CEO

Published: Thursday, August 17, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Johannesburg:A threat from a group calling itself the Tamil Tiger Youth was the clinching factor in the decision to withdraw the South African cricket team from Sri Lanka, Cricket South Africa (CSA) CEO Gerald Majola said today.

''We've been waiting for the report from the ICC-approved security consultants and we received that today from the Olive Group. The report says the current risk is unacceptable and the Sri Lankan government is unable to guarantee the physical safety of the team,'' Majola told a media conference in Johannesburg.

''We have discussed our withdrawal with the ICC (International Cricket Council) and I was on the phone to (ICC CEO) Malcolm Speed this morning and they understand our situation.'' Majola said the team had received a direct threat early today.

''The Tamil Tiger Youth sent an e-mail to the (South African) High Commission this morning saying that the team must come home.

I've seen the e-mail.'' Officials in Sri Lanka, where Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels and the military are locked in the worst fighting since a 2002 ceasefire halted a two-decade civil war, said they had never heard of a group calling itself the Tamil Tiger Youth.

The South African team, who were due to play a triangular series with Sri Lanka and India, had initially decided to come home on Monday, after a bomb blast in a shopping centre popular with the players, less than a kilometre from their Colombo hotel, killed seven people.

South Africa's own security consultants, Nicholls and Steyn, who are contracted to the ICC to oversee security arrangements at the World Cup, compiled a report saying there was a real threat to the team.

The Sri Lankan Cricket Board refused to accept the report, although they did offer presidential-level security to the South African team. CSA announced that the team would stay while the Dubai-based Olive Group compiled a security report.

''The independent report...just confirms what our own security team and the High Commission have said, that it is unsafe to be in Sri Lanka at the moment,'' Majola said.

''We have a wonderful relationship with Sri Lankan cricket and will now be talking to them about rescheduling the tournament, in Sri Lanka once the situation improves, in South Africa or even at a neutral venue,'' he added.

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