Tight security as South Africa arrive in Pakistan

Published: Wednesday, September 26, 2007, 18:10 [IST]
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Pakistan deployed dozens of police officers including elite commandos as the South African cricket team arrived here for a month-long tour of the country.

South Africa are due to play two Tests and five one-day internationals in the violence-hit Islamic republic. They open the tour with a warm-up three-day match in Karachi from Thursday.

Tight security was seen at Karachi's Jinnah International Airport with policemen surrounding Graeme Smith's men as they left the terminal building in the teeming city of 12 million people.

"We deployed 100 policemen, police commandos and military commandos to create a tight security blanket," senior Karachi police officer Rana Pervez told AFP.

The South African squad, consisting of 14 players and 13 officials including three security officers, were then whisked to their hotel in a heavily guarded convoy.

They are due to hold a press conference later.

It is the first time South Africa have visited the troubled city since playing the quarter-final of the 1996 World Cup. They refused to play here over security fears on their tours in 1997 and 2003.

Security fears have surged in Pakistan after a spate of Islamic militant violence that has left around 270 people dead following the storming of an Al-Qaeda-linked mosque in Islamabad in July.

The nuclear-armed country's military ruler, President Pervez Musharraf, is also seeking re-election on October 6 in a bitterly contested poll.

Karachi itself was rocked by clashes between pro- and anti-Musharraf activists in May that left more than 40 people dead.

Earlier this month Pakistani officials assured a visiting two-member delegation from Cricket South Africa that they would provide full security for the tour.

The Pakistan Cricket Board has excluded Rawalpindi and Peshawar from the original itinerary but it insisted the decision was not over security fears but due to a lack of facilities at the two venues.

South Africa will now play Tests in Karachi from October 1 to 5 and Lahore from October 8 to 12.

Four years ago South African cancelled a tour following a bomb blast in Karachi. They only agreed to a shortened version after Pakistan threatened to sue them and agreed to provide them security normally reserved for state heads.

Australia's A team toured Pakistan earlier this month without any problems.

But security fears and political instability forced the International Hockey Federation to move the annual Champions Trophy tournament from Lahore where it was due to be held in December.

Left-handed batsman Jean-Paul Duminy is the only uncapped player in an otherwise experienced squad while Smith, Mark Boucher, Herschelle Gibbs, Jacques Kallis, Andre Nel, Makhaya Ntini and Shaun Pollock are the seven survivors of the Proteas' last tour here four years ago.

South Africa's squad for a five one-day internationals following the Test series will be announced later.

Squad: Graeme Smith (captain), Hashim Amla, Mark Boucher, AB de Villiers, Jean-Paul Duminy, Herschelle Gibbs, Paul Harris, Jacques Kallis, Morne Morkel, Andre Nel, Makhaya Ntini, Shaun Pollock, Ashwell Prince, Dale Steyn.

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