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Bhutto slaying report set for release

A UN-appointed independent panel was to release its report into the 2007 murder of Pakistani ex-premier Benazir Bhutto on Thursday, but diplomats said it would not identify the culprits.

world Updated: Apr 15, 2010 22:50 IST

A UN-appointed independent panel was to release its report into the 2007 murder of Pakistani ex-premier Benazir Bhutto on Thursday, but diplomats said it would not identify the culprits.

The three-member panel was to unwrap the long-awaited, sensitive report after complying with Islamabad's request for a two-week delay.

Pakistan said last week it had asked that the release, initially scheduled for March 30, be delayed so that input from Afghanistan, the United States and Saudi Arabia could be included.

Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said he had asked the UN-appointed, three-member panel to include input from former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Saudi Arabia in its report.

He did not elaborate further on what information he wanted to be included.

Diplomats here pointed out that the purpose of the inquiry was to establish the facts and circumstances around the Bhutto slaying and was not meant to identify the culprits.

"It's not judicial," said one diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Bhutto, the first woman to become prime minister of a Muslim country, was killed on December 27, 2007 in a gun and suicide attack after addressing an election rally in Rawalpindi, a garrison city near the capital Islamabad.

Bhutto's supporters have cast doubt on an initial Pakistani probe into her death, questioning whether she was killed by a gunshot or the blast and criticizing authorities for hosing down the scene of the attack within minutes.

Bhutto wrote in her autobiography of warnings that four suicide squads -- including one sent by a son of Osama bin Laden -- were after her.

She also repeatedly accused a cabal of senior Pakistani intelligence and government officials of plotting to kill her, notably in an attack that killed 139 people in Karachi on October 18, 2007 when she returned from exile.

On Wednesday, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky told a press briefing that the panel headed by Chile's ambassador to the UN Heraldo Munoz would formally present its report to UN chief Ban Ki-moon Thursday afternoon.

"The secretary general then intends to transmit it to the government of Pakistan, and he will also share it, for information purposes, with the members of the Security Council," the spokesman added.

Munoz and one of the other panel members, Indonesian ex-attorney general Marzuki Darusman, were to give a press conference late Thursday to provide details of the report.

The delay in releasing the report was announced late last month only hours after a UN spokeswoman in Islamabad said all UN offices in Pakistan would close for three days as a security precaution.

The measure affected more than 2,000 staff in dozens of offices around the nuclear-armed country with a population of 167 million.

On October 5, a suicide bomber clad in military uniform attacked the heavily fortified UN World Food Program office in Islamabad, killing five staff members.

Security is precarious in parts of Pakistan, where more than 3,150 people have been killed in suicide and bomb attacks over the last three years. The violence has been blamed on militants opposed to the government's relations with the United States.