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Benazir Bhutto's attacker 'identified'

world Updated: Jan 29, 2008 23:54 IST
Vijay Dutt
Vijay Dutt
Hindustan Times
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A teenaged boy arrested for alleged involvement in the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto has identified the suicide bomber who blew himself up near her armoured car in Rawalpindi last month, a Pakistani official said.

Fifteen-year-old Aitezaz Shah, who was arrested from Dera Ismail Khan town of the North West Frontier Province, identified the bomber as a man named Bilal who belonged to the South Waziristan tribal region, Interior Secretary Syed Kamal Shah said.

Bhutto died in a gun and bomb attack after she had addressed an election rally in Rawalpindi on December 27. Shah has told police he was part of a five-member suicide squad sent by Pakistani Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud to kill Bhutto.

Aitezaz Shah and his accomplice Sher Zaman, who was also arrested in Dera Ismail Khan, were brought to Rawalpindi and a court remanded them to police custody till February 1. Police also found materials used to make suicide jackets at Zaman's residence.

Interior Secretary Shah told the Daily Times that the teenaged boy had identified the suicide bomber during his interrogation by the Joint Investigation Team that is probing Bhutto's assassination. Investigators are verifying the information with Bilal's family and official records in South Waziristan, Shah said.

Shah also said the teenager had told his interrogators that he had been meeting Baitullah Mehsud but this "claim was yet to be verified". Zaman has not revealed anything so far, Shah said.

Musharraf talks tough

As he emerged from Downing Street talks with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf certainly looked the part of a West-friendly leader, poised, cordial and jocular, in an immaculate dark suit. But soon, he turned the tables on the issue of terrorism.

While Brown called for greater efforts to curb terrorism and extremism, Musharraf claimed on Monday that the United Kingdom did not have a long-term strategy to address the problem. The President also rejected suggestions of Pakistani responsibility for the radicalisation of Britain's homegrown extremists with family ties to Pakistan.

He pointed to the dangers of "home-grown", disillusioned Muslims here as opposed to those in Pakistan. He also called for a tougher line on extremist organisations here and singled out the group Hizb ut-Tahrir, saying, "We have banned them in Pakistan, yet we are blamed we are doing nothing. You haven't banned them yet. So why blame us?"

He dismissed British complaints that the Taliban military leadership continued to operate out of the Pakistani city of Quetta. Musharraf stated that the ousted Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, never came to Pakistan. But he conceded that refugee camps on the border were "safe havens" for Taliban militants, and that he had asked the United Nations to take them back across the border.

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