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Fresh threats bother Benazir Bhutto

Her lawyer says they have received a letter which says Bhutto could be attacked while travelling or at home.

world Updated: Oct 24, 2007 03:21 IST

Pakistan's former prime minister Benazir Bhutto has received threats of new suicide attacks from Islamic militants, days after two bomb attacks on her procession left 140 people dead, her lawyer said on Tuesday.

"We have received a letter saying that Benazir Bhutto could be attacked while travelling or at her home," Farooq Naik told Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA).

"The letters say that even a female suicide bomber could target her," he said, adding that Bhutto's party was going to take further measures to heighten her security.

He said he suspected the warning had come from Al-Qaeda-linked militant groups.

Two explosions ripped through a procession that Bhutto was leading on Thursday, hours after arriving from Dubai to end an eight-year self-imposed exile. More than 500 people were injured in the assault.

Initially, Bhutto said it was an action by Islamic militants and their sympathizers within the government of President General Pervez Musharraf and demanded an independent inquiry led by foreign investigators.

The militants, especially those in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, are disturbed by Bhutto's recent power-sharing deal with Musharraf.

Under the agreement both aim at forming a liberal alliance against the country's extremist and fundamentalist forces.

US and Britain have encouraged it, believing the support from the most popular political leader would enhance the efforts of Musharraf, a key US ally, in what it calls it's war on terrorism.

They also hope the coalition will help contain Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters in the tribal region from launching assaults on international forces in Afghanistan.

However, Bhutto simultaneously named her political rival and Chief Minister of Punjab province Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, and the head of country's Intelligence Bureau, all close to President General Pervez Musharraf, as the ringleaders of the attackers.

This prompted a war of words between Bhutto and the ruling party, which accused her of staging the attack herself for political gains.

There have also been multiple, confusing accounts of the nature of the blasts. Initially, the government said the first blast occurred when a suicide bomber threw a hand grenade to break into the security cordon around Bhutto's bulletproof truck before he blew himself up near it.

Later on, the investigators said both were suicide bombings, carried out by two bombers.

Meanwhile, Bhutto's lawyer claimed that the government had placed her name on the Exit Control List to prevent her from leaving the country.

The government action is in violation of the constitution that grants every citizen freedom of movement, Naik said, adding that he had called upon the Interior Ministry to remove the restriction.

The ministry's spokesman was not available to comment, but a high official said on condition of anonymity that the ban was imposed because there were several cases of corruption of almost $1.5 billion pending in the country's courts against the opposition leader.

Under the deal with Musharraf, Bhutto was granted amnesty on the corruption charges but the agreement remains in limbo as the measure has been challenged in the Supreme Court.

Musharraf's own fate remains in the hands of the top court, which is presently hearing several challenges to his eligibility to run the October 6 presidential election that he won by majority vote in the parliament.

The court has directed the election results to be withheld until the final verdict.

The petitioners argue that a bar on public servants from contesting election makes Musharraf ineligible for the vote.

"The election is flawed as no serving army officer is permitted to participate in politics. Musharraf is liable to be tried under high treason for filing his nomination papers," Etzaz Ahsan, a defence counsel for the rival candidate, told the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The court is expected to decide on the petitions at the end of next week.