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04 March 2024

Top rebel charged over Bhutto murder plot

By Agencies

A top Pakistani Taliban commander has been formally charged with plotting the murder of former premier Benazir Bhutto and declared an absconder Saturday, police said.

Baitullah Mehsud, an Al-Qaeda-linked militant commander based in the tribal area of South Waziristan, is accused by the Pakistan government and the United States CIA of masterminding the assassination.

"We have submitted preliminary charges against Baitullah Mehsud in connection with Benazir Bhutto's murder in an anti-terrorism court Rawalpindi," a senior police official told AFP.

"The court has declared Mehsud and four other suspects absconders in the case and issued non-bailable warrants for their arrest," the official said but declined to give further details. Five other people have already been arrested in connection with the gun and suicide attack in Rawalpindi on December 27.

Bhutto was the target of militants because she had backed the government's action against terrorists and was seen as pro-Western, according to investigators.

Her Pakistan People's Party has demanded a UN probe rejecting the findings by British police that a lone assassin shot her but missed and then detonated explosives, which made her fatally smash her skull against her car.

Pakistani security forces on Monday arrested Qari Saifullah Akhtar, a top militant with links to Osama bin Laden, in connection with an October assassination attempt on Bhutto in the southern city of Karachi.

Police say two of the men already being held over the assassination, Hasnain Gul and Rafaqat, who goes by one name, confessed before a court on Wednesday to plotting the attack.

It was said to have been carried out to avenge government raids on a radical mosque in the capital Islamabad, which killed more than 100, mostly militants.  (AFP)