Pakistan questions two suspects in Bhutto plot


Islamabad : Pakistani authorities questioned two suspects Sunday, including a 15-year-old boy, about their links with a militant group allegedly behind the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, officials said.

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“I can confirm that a teenage boy and his senior partner have been detained by the police in Dera Ismail Khan on suspicion of their involvement in the assassination,” Interior Secretary Syed Kamal Shah said.

The boy, Aitzaz Shah, has confessed that he was one of the several attackers assigned to kill Benazir Bhutto, Shah said.

“But we are also questioning his senior partner for the confirmation of the confession. When the investigations are complete we will be able to come up with something definitive,” the official said.

But a senior police official in Dera Ismail Khan said the boy was only a member of the group that was believed to be behind Bhutto’s murder and had no direct involvement in the killing.

“At the time of the attack he was not in Rawalpindi,” he said. Bhutto was killed in a bomb and gun attack Dec 27 after addressing an election rally in Rawalpindi.

Shah was arrested Friday, along with his handler Sher Zaman. Both had been assigned to target a Shia gathering in the city. During the search, the police recovered explosives and arms.

“The two suspects belong to the group of tribal commander Baitullah Mehsud,” the police official said.

There were reports that the law enforcement agencies had also detained a government official in South Waziristan tribal district for his suspected links with the two suspects.

Mehsud, a pro-Taliban commander in Pakistan’s restive tribal region bordering Afghanistan, was blamed by the Pakistani government for Bhutto’s murder.

US intelligence chief Michael Hayden had supported the claims Friday, saying that Mehsud’s men had killed the Pakistani opposition leader with support from the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

“You’ve got this nexus now that probably was always there in latency but is now active: a nexus between Al Qaeda and various extremist and separatist groups,” the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director told the Washington Post.

A spokesman for Mehsud denied the allegations and said Shah had no links with their group.

“We have denied our involvement in Benazir’s assassination previously and we are strongly denying this again,” Maulvi Omar told the Dawn newspaper.