Two suspects held in Benazir case

February 08, 2008


ISLAMABAD/RAWALPINDI, Feb 7: Police said on Thursday they had arrested two more suspects in connection with the assassination of PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto, as a Scotland Yard team helping Pakistani investigators into the terror attack of Dec 27 returned to Islamabad from Britain.

A senior police official confirmed the arrest of the two suspects and said they were being interrogated.

“Two very important terrorists – Hasnain and Rafaqat – have been arrested this morning with the help of Rawalpindi police,” a police statement said.

Police said that Hasnain and Rafaqat were relatives of two key suspects arrested earlier in connection with the assassination.

Law-enforcement agencies arrested 15-year-old Aitezaz Shah last month, who admitted to being a back-up suicide bomber for a team that assassinated Ms Bhutto. He and his handler Sher Zaman, who are from Manshera district, were arrested from Dera Ismail Khan.

The Scotland Yard team is likely to hand over a report to the Pakistani authorities on Friday, interior ministry sources told Dawn.

Shortly after their arrival in Islamabad, members of the team visited the Police Lines in Rawalpindi and discussed some important issues with Pakistani investigators and bomb disposal experts.

When contacted, Interior Minister Lt-Gen Hamid Nawaz said the British investigators had not informed the government about how long they would stay in Pakistan.

“The team will be free to further investigate the case,” he said.

According to terms of reference agreed between Pakistan and the UK, the team could assist local investigators in finding out the cause of Ms Bhutto’s death. However, the primacy and responsibility for the investigation rests with the Pakistani authorities.

“The British investigators are not confined to determine only the cause of Ms Bhutto’s death and it depends on them to investigate the case also and unveil the persons involved in the assassination,” the minister said.

Sources in the interior ministry said the government had given very ‘short’ time to foreign experts to determine the cause of Ms Bhutto’s death as they had been asked to complete their investigations before the Feb 18 election.

AGENCIES ADD: Both men had “tentacles from the tribal region and Baitullah Mehsud,” a senior security official said.

“It is a major breakthrough. These two men were involved in the assassination and they are from a militant group which is relatively new,” the official said.