Thursday, January 24, 2008

2 people remanded on Benazir Bhutto assassination charges

A Pakistani anti-terror court on Wednesday remanded two persons arrested for alleged involvement in former premier Benazir Bhutto's assassination to police custody for 10 days.

Aitezaz Shah, a 15-year-old boy who was allegedly trained as a suicide bomber and his accomplice Sher Zaman, arrested last week in Dera Ismail Khan town of the North West Frontier Province, were produced in the anti-terrorism court in nearby Rawalpindi under tight security.

Police sought remand for them, saying they needed to be questioned further to ascertain their exact role in Bhutto's killing. The judge accepted the plea and remanded Shah and Zaman to police custody till February 1.

The duo was handed over to Punjab Police yesterday and brought to Rawalpindi. A special police team probing Bhutto's assassination in Rawalpindi on December 27 is expected to question them.

The Pakistan government has said it will also allow Scotland Yard experts probing Bhutto's murder to question Shah and Zaman if the British sleuths made a request.

Interior ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema told reporters yesterday that the British team ''will be at liberty to interrogate the two suspects''. He said: ''If they (Scotland Yard team) require, the government would facilitate them to quiz Shah and Zaman.''

Madrassa raided

Security officials last night raided a madrassa in Karachi where Shah had studied before going to South Waziristan and Afghanistan for training in terrorist camps.

During a raid on Zaman's house in Dera Ismail Khan, police seized explosives and other materials used in making suicide vests.

The Scotland Yard sleuths have gone back to Britain to analyse the evidence they had gathered but the British High Commission has said they could return to Pakistan if necessary.

Pakistani officials are currently trying to corroborate Shah's claim that he was part of a five-member squad sent by Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan commander Baitullah Mehsud to kill Bhutto.

Referring to the questioning of Shah and Zaman, Cheema said: ''They have given a statement with regard to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. But we cannot say anything about them until and unless there is corroborating evidence to suggest that whatever they say is correct.''

Police have also arrested Shah's father from Karachi and his uncle Shabbir Hussain Shah at Battal town in Mansehra.

Police in Karachi also arrested a relative of Baitullah Mehsud apparently on the basis of information provided by Shah.

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