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04 Dec

ISIS would have targeted Australian cricketers: report

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Steve Smith. Photo: AP PhotoCricket Australia pulled out of a tour of Bangladesh last year because of a “credible” security threat but Steve Smith’s side had not been invited to attend a function where they reportedly were to be targeted by ISIS.

London’s Daily Mail has reported disturbing allegations from Bangladesh Cricket’s former head of performance, Mal Loye, who quit his position after learning of the alleged planned attacks against the Australians in October.

But the security threat at the time was against Australian nationals who were to attend a major function in Dhaka – not the team itself. The team had not been scheduled to attend the gathering.

CA’s statement in October said “an independent security assessment confirmed there is a risk of terrorism in Bangladesh targeting Australian nationals”.

Soon after the Australians pulled out of the trip, extremists murdered a group of Italian tourists in the city.

CA said on Sunday it stood by the decision to avoid the tour on security grounds. Specific details of who were behind the threats have not been publicly released.

“We are still hopeful of rescheduling the postponed Test tour but the safety of players and officials will always come first,” a CA spokesman said.

“We stand by our decision to postpone tours to Bangladesh due to serious concerns about the safety and security of the Australian team and officials. We will continue to monitor advice from ASIO, DFAT and our own security advisers about the security risk for any future tours of the Australian team in Bangladesh and make a decision based on this advice closer to any potential tour.”

The Daily Mail has reported on the aborted tour because of safety concerns over England’s planned tour of Bangladesh from September 30. Players have yet to give their commitment, with some reportedly reluctant to go.

Loye, a former England one-day international player, reportedly lived on the same street in Dhaka where nine Italians and a US citizen were killed in July.

“The week I left, the Australia team didn’t turn up because the terrorists had planned to take us out when we had an event sorted with the touring team,” he said.

“My boss’s wife was arranging the event with the Australians. The Australian government saw the plans from the underworld guys about what was going to happen. The plans didn’t work out for the terrorists because the Australia team didn’t arrive there.

“The Italians got shot that week. The terrorists obviously thought they’d take a few people out while they were there. That was enough for me. I knew after the shootings that my freedom as a Westerner had gone.”

The trouble in Bangladesh has meant Australia is unlikely to tour there and Pakistan again, at least in the immediate future, because of safety fears.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website on Sunday urged potential travellers to Bangladesh to “reconsider your need to travel”.

“We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Bangladesh due to the high threat of terrorist attack and the uncertain political situation,” the website said.

The England team’s head of security, Reg Dickason, who once held the same job with the Australians, head of operations John Carr and players association boss David Leatherdale have told the players they are satisfied with the security arrangements provided for the tour.

Australian Cricketers Association chief Alistair Nicholson said in October the right call had been made to cancel the tour.

“The circumstances that led to the decision to cancel the tour are bigger than the game of cricket, and it’s important to view the issue in this context. Where there are elements that are beyond our control – as there are in this case – the importance of player safety is brought sharply into focus, and this is absolutely paramount,” he said.

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