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Pakistan police formally accuse al-Qaida-linked militant leader in Bhutto killing

Pakistan police formally accuse al-Qaida-linked militant leader in Bhutto killing

Pakistani police formally accused the top Taliban leader in the country and four others of planning the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.
Police filed preliminary charges in court Saturday against Baitullah Mehsud, who had been named by the Pakistani government in the Dec. 27 killing of Bhutto in a suicide and gun attack. Mehsud, alleged to have al-Qaida connections, is underground and it was not clear if the police were close to catching him.
A judge has issued non-bailable warrants of arrest against Mehsud and four others, said Chaudhry Abdul Majeed, the chief investigator in the case.
Mehsud was named by President Pervez Musharraf within days of the assassination, but the filing of the preliminary charges is the first legal step before an arrest can be made.
A Pakistani court, meanwhile, acquitted the brother of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a murder case after the families of the dead suddenly withdrew their accusations, lawyers said.
The turnaround comes after the second-place showing by Sharif's party in the Feb. 18 parliamentary elections. The party is expected to form a ruling coalition with Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party.
In northwestern Pakistan, meanwhile, police searched for clues after a suicide attack at a police officer's funeral late Friday killed more than 40 people in the Swat Valley, where troops are fighting pro-Taliban militants.
Another suicide bombing in nearby Bajur Saturday killed one person and wounded 19 others, mostly security personnel, officials said.
Mehsud, the suspect in Bhutto's assassination, is the commander of Tehrik-e-Taliban, an umbrella group of Islamic militant groups linked to al-Qaida. He is believed to be based in the volatile South Waziristan province near the border with Afghanistan, and has been blamed for a series of suicide attacks across Pakistan.
Majeed refused to give details of the investigation into the specific roles that the suspects are accused of playing in the assassination.
Nawaz Sharif's brother, Shahbaz Sharif, was the chief minister, or top elected official, of the eastern province of Punjab when five men were killed in what their families said were fake shootouts with the police in 1998.
The families on Saturday told the court they did not want Shahbaz Sharif to be tried, said the plaintiffs' lawyer, Aftab Bajwa. He would not give a reason why and the relatives also refused to explain.
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Associated Press reporters Asif Shahzad in Lahore and Riaz Khan in Peshawar contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-02-28 18:40 GMT+08:00