Court orders arrest of pro-Taliban commander in Bhutto's killing

A Pakistani anti-terrorism court on Tuesday formally charged five people for their involvement in the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Butto, officials said. ( dpa )

Bhutto was murdered in a gun and suicide attack on December 27 at an election rally in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

The authorities in late January arrested a would-be teenage bomber, Aitzaz Shah, along with his handler Sher Zaman in Dera Ismail Khan, a town in the North-West Frontier Province. According to authorities, Aitzaz confessed to being next in line to attack Bhutto had she survived the Rawalpindi attack.

The two accused were presented in the court with three more suspects Hasnain Gul, Abdul Rashid, and Rafaqat Hussain - who were arrested in Rawalpindi in the following month for their alleged roles in planning Bhutto's assassination.

The anti-terrorism judge Habib-ur-Rehman in Rawalpindi read out the sections of the laws under which all five accused were charged, before adjourning the case till April 1, a court official said.

The next hearing of the case will be held in the prison due to security concerns, the judge ruled.

According to the police, the suspects Rafaqat and Gul have confessed that they were seeking revenge for the death of a comrade killed in a commando assault on Islamabad's Red Mosque in July. Bhutto had supported the action.

Gul also admitted that he had organized two more suicide attacks on Pakistani military targets in Rawalpindi in 2007, including one that killed 11 people.

All five accused are believed to be the followers of a pro-Taliban commander Baitulla Mehsud, who has been pinpointed by Pakistani government as the mastermind of the assassination.

The anti-terrorism court issued an arrest warrant early this month for Mehusd, who operates in the country's restive tribal areas, and four others. The commander, believed to have a 5,000-strong militia, has denied the allegations.

Mehsud has been accused of training hundreds of suicide bombers at his base in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan to target government, military and political figures.

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