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Qaeda behind Bhutto killing: UK media

Evidence collected by the Scotland Yard experts points towards Qaeda's hand, The Sunday Times reports.

world Updated: Jan 14, 2008 00:14 IST

Evidence amassed by Scotland Yard sleuths probing the killing of Benazir Bhutto points towards Al-Qaeda militants being responsible for the assassination of former Pakistan Premier, according to a media report.

The Scotland Yard experts in video evidence, forensic science and explosives are in Pakistan after President Pervez Musharraf took up an offer from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown for help in the investigation into the December 27 killing of Bhutto in Rawalpindi.

British officials have revealed that evidence collected by the Scotland Yard experts in Pakistan points towards Al-Qaeda's hand in the killing of Bhutto, The Sunday Times reported.

Musharraf was quick to blame the killing on Baitullah Mehsud, a Taliban commander in southern Waziristan tribal area with links to Al-Qaeda. But, Mehsud has denied his involvement in Bhutto's assassination.

"Linking Mehsud to Bhutto's assassination was done for strategic reasons and had nothing to do with the ground realities," Sajjan Gohel, an expert on Al-Qaeda, was quoted as saying by The Sunday Times.

"Although Mehsud has ideological sympathies with the Taliban, his influence does not extend beyond the tribal areas and he certainly does not have the resources to plan an attack in the centre of the country like the assassination of Bhutto." But some British and American officials share Musharraf's view that Mehsud is behind most of the suicide bombings in Pakistan.

Asked why Pakistani forces do not capture Mehsud, one official said: "It's not so easy to go into tribal areas. Look what happened to the last lot of Pakistani soldiers that tried."

The report quoting diplomats said Mehsud had dispatched teams of suicide bombers round the country to follow Bhutto to rallies and seize an opportunity to kill her.

The gun fired at Bhutto has been checked for finger prints by the Scotland Yard detectives. A government minister told the newspaper that these have been traced through identity cards to a man in Swat, an area where Mehsud's men have been fighting.

"There was no cover up," he insisted. "It was just unfortunate that in all the shock and confusion at the beginning, people shot their mouths off talking about sun-roofs rather than simply saying it would be investigated."

Soon after Bhutto was killed, Pakistan government had claimed that she died of skull fracture caused after her head hit the sun-roof of her bullet-proof car.

According to the report, every day another conspiracy theory emerges and it is now widely believed that the gun had a laser sight, suggesting military complicity, or that a sniper may have been in a nearby building.

Bhutto's husband, Asif Ali Zardari, has rejected the Scotland Yard inquiry and demanded a wide-ranging United Nations-led investigation that would also look into the bombing of Bhutto's homecoming procession in Karachi in October.