Pakistan arrests two suspects over Bhutto killing

Pakistan arrests two suspects over Bhutto killing
# 07 February 2008 14:33 (UTC +04:00)
The announcement of the "major breakthrough" coincided with solemn Muslim ceremonies at Bhutto’s graveside in southern Pakistan to mark the end of the traditional 40 days of mourning for the former premier.
As tens of thousands of mourners beat their chests in anguish and recited Koranic verses, her husband told them he would risk death himself to fulfil what he called her campaign for democracy at elections on February 18.
"I will go to every corner of the country to tell the people about Benazir’s mission. If I succeed, you will see me alive -- if I am martyred like her, you will be the ones to take my coffin to the grave," Asif Ali Zardari said.
Heavy security was in place for his speech at the Bhutto family’s white marble mausoleum in the rural village of Garhi Khuda Bakhsh, where Bhutto was buried the day after her assassination on December 27.
Bhutto was killed in a gun and suicide bomb attack at an election rally in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, sparking days of rioting and forcing the elections to be postponed by six weeks.
With pressure growing on the government to solve her murder, investigators said they had seized two "very important alleged terrorists" in Rawalpindi on Thursday morning in connection with the attack.
"I can confirm two people have been arrested in connection with the probe into Bhutto’s murder and they are being interrogated by the joint investigation team," Interior Ministry spokesman Brigadier Javed Cheema told AFP.
A statement by a Pakistani investigation team probing the attack said it had "arrested two very important alleged terrorists, Hasnain and Rafaqat, this morning from Rawalpindi with the help of Rawalpindi police."
"They are being interrogated," it added.
Both men had "tentacles from the tribal region and Baitullah Mehsud," a senior security official said, referring to an Al-Qaeda-linked militant commander based in the restive border region of South Waziristan.
"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.
The Pakistani government and the United States Central Intelligence Agency have accused the shadowy Mehsud of masterminding the attack. He has denied any involvement.
Last month police arrested a 15-year-old boy who allegedly confessed to being part of a back-up squad of suicide bombers tasked by Mehsud to target Bhutto if the initial attack failed.
Thursday’s arrests also coincided with the return to Pakistan of a Scotland Yard team invited by President Pervez Musharraf to help probe Bhutto’s murder, although officials said there was no link with the new arrests.
The British detectives are due to present their report on the killing to the Pakistani government on Friday.
Musharraf brought the Britons in to end a controversy over how Bhutto died. The government initially said she died from hitting her head on her car sunroof during the suicide blast, but after an outcry from her party Musharraf later admitted that it was possible Bhutto might have been shot dead.
Bhutto’s party has demanded a United Nations probe into her death but the government has rejected this.
Her Pakistan People’s Party meanwhile condemned the government for "double standards" after it emerged that officials were to hold peace talks, via tribal leaders, with militants in South Waziristan who are under Mehsud’s command.
News of the talks came a day after a Taliban militant spokesman said Mehsud had ordered a ceasefire with government forces. Government officials said however that they were trying to isolate Mehsud from less hardline fighters. /APA/