Sydney, Aug 14 : Two days after the ICC's Task Force visiting Pakistan to assess overall security ahead of next month's Champions Trophy allayed fears of international cricketers from Australia, England, and New Zealand, fresh security fears have threatened the eight-nation ODI tournament as Australia last evening decided to shut down its consulates in Karachi and Lahore citing fresh threat perceptions from militant groups.
The Aussie Government also estopped the plans to shift the tournament to Sri Lanka, saying it was an equal unsafe venue as Pakistan.
The development came in the wake of reports that the ICC Task Force officials were preparing to meet their Australian counterparts to convince them of Pakistan's safety. ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat, part of the contingent that will meet CA tomorrow, was quoted yesterday as saying: "We might be pretty confident, but we can't force anyone to play in Pakistan. If the event is shifted it would be held in Sri Lanka."
The tournament is scheduled to run from September 12-28, which coincides with the holy Islamic period of Ramadan.
While there is no heightened threat of terrorist attacks or kidnappings during Ramadan, a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) source said the warnings against travelling to Pakistan could not get much higher, reported The News.
"Recent credible information indicates terrorists are planning attacks against targets in Karachi. Consulates, including the Australian Consulate, may be targeted, as well as major international hotels. The Australian Consulates in Karachi and Lahore have been closed until further notice for security reasons," the paper quoted Australia's DFAT as saying.
The DFAT has also urged its own staff in Colombo to avoid train stations and major supermarkets among other venues. "The warning for Colombo hasn't been this high for years. It has been given the same travel advice as Pakistan," the paper quoted a source as saying.
There have been two bombings a month in Sri Lanka since February and DFAT has been advised that militants could target "major sporting events", added the paper.