Militants 'gave gun and suicide vest' to Bhutto killer

The two Islamic militants arrested last week confessed Wednesday to giving a gun and suicide vest to the man who killed former PM Benazir Bhutto, Pakistani police reported.


Pakistani police probing the assassination of Benazir Bhutto said on Wednesday they had made a "major breakthrough" when two Islamist militants arrested last week confessed to giving her attacker a pistol and suicide vest.

"They have confessed that they gave a suicide jacket and a pistol to the bomber," Deputy Inspector General Chaudhry Abdul Majeed told reporters. "It's a major breakthrough. Their confession is a major piece of evidence in the case," he said.

Bhutto, a former prime minister, was killed in a gun and suicide bomb attack after an election rally in the city of Rawalpindi on Dec. 27.

Majeed, who is heading the investigation, said the confessions were made by two men arrested in Rawalpindi last week and identified as Hasnain Gul and Rifaqat.

He said they had confessed during interrogation that "they facilitated and harboured (the bomber) Saeed alias Bilal."

Gul and Rifaqat had links with Islamist militants and one of their close friends was killed in an army assault on the Red
Mosque, a militant stronghold, in the capital Islamabad in July, he said. More than 100 people were killed in the assault.

Majeed said the police were still investigating possible links between the militants and Baitullah Mehsud, an al Qaeda-linked militant based in the tribal region on the Afghan border.

Pakistani and U.S. intelligence officials suspect Mehsud was behind Bhutto's assassination.

Bhutto's aides have cast doubt over the government investigation of the assassination of the two-time prime minister.

Controversy also rages over whether Bhutto was killed by a bullet or by a concussive head injury caused by the detonation
of the bomb after the assassin had fired at her.

A recent poll conducted by Gallup Pakistan found that almost half of all Pakistanis believe government agencies or
politicians allied to President Pervez Musharraf were involved in the assassination.

A British police team that the government invited to investigate said in its report last week that Bhutto was killed
when the blast slammed her head against armour plating around a roof hatch in her vehicle, which she had stood through to wave to supporters.

Aides insist Bhutto was shot before the blast, and want a United Nations probe to find her killer -- a demand the
government has rejected.

A general election originally called by Musharraf for Jan. 8 was put off until Feb. 18 after Bhutto's assassination.

Campaigning has been marred by persistent violence, including a roadside bomb blast on Wednesday in the northwestern Swat valley which killed two people and wounded three in an election campaign convoy. 

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