ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday December 30, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 31

Al Qaeda ally denies role in slaying

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - Al Qaeda-linked Pakistani militant Baitullah Mehsud was not involved in the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, his spokesman said on Saturday, and blamed the government for killing her. “I strongly deny it. Tribal people have their own customs. We don't strike women,” Mehsud's spokesman Maulvi Omar said by telephone from an undisclosed location.

The government said on Friday that Mehsud was responsible for Bhutto's killing as she left an election rally in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, close to Islamabad, on Thursday. Al Qaeda is actively trying to destabilise Pakistan, and there have been several assassination attempts on President Pervez Musharraf, his former prime minister Shaukat Aziz and former interior minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao.

But the militant's spokesman said Bhutto was a victim of President Pervez Musharraf's security apparatus, repeating a conspiracy theory many Pakistanis are willing to believe.“This was a well-planned conspiracy carried out by the intelligence agencies, army and government for their own political motives,” said Omar, the official spokesman for the Taliban in Pakistan, adding his condemnation of the killing of Bhutto.

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