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Pakistan says Qaeda behind Bhutto killing

Neither bullet nor splinter claimed Benazir's life, says the Pakistani government. Amit Baruah reports. See Videos

world Updated: Dec 29, 2007 08:31 IST
Amit Baruah and Agencies

Neither bullet nor splinter hit her. That’s the line the Pakistani government put out on Friday night, more than 24 hours after former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in Rawalpindi’s Liaqat Bagh.

As skeptical Pakistani journalists plied the Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Cheema with questions, he responded that a “blood-stained lever caused the fracture in her (Bhutto’s) skull.”

Analysing a video (source not revealed) shown at the press conference, Cheema, in a dramatic twist to the assassination case, said three shots were fired at Benazir while she stood through her car’s sun-roof. And then the explosion followed.

Cheema also displayed some X-rays of Benazir’s skull and claimed that no foreign element was found in her body. The latest claims made by the Musharraf regime, given the past track record of Pakistan in leaving unresolved the sensational assassination of Zia-ul-Haq in August 1988, can only lead to the question: is there a cover-up going on?

Cheema also read out what was a conversation between Pakistani extremist leader Baitullah Mehsud and an unidentified maulvi. The dialogue “revealed” that that two persons — Ikramullah and Badar — were responsible for the attack on Benazir’s rally. Both also “congratulated” each other on their success.

“We have intelligence intercepts indicating that Al-Qaeda leader Baitullah Mehsud is behind her assassination,” Cheema claimed. Mehsud is one of Pakistan’s most wanted militant leaders and is based in the South Waziristan region close to the Afghan border.

Earlier in the day, an Al-Qaida commander based in Afghanistan claimed responsibility for the assassination. “We terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat (the) mujahadeen,” Al-Qaida commander Mustafa Abu Al-Yazid told an Italian news agency.