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Death for two in Pak bombing

Karachi, April 14 (Reuters): A Pakistan anti-terrorism court convicted four men today of organising last year’s suicide bomb attack on the US consulate in the port city of Karachi, and handed death sentences to two of them. The other two were sentenced to life in jail, while a fifth was acquitted.

Twelve Pakistanis were killed when suspected Islamic militants packed a vehicle with explosives and rammed it into the perimeter wall of the consulate on June 14. No foreigners or consulate staff were killed.

“I am not worried. I am satisfied. I was expecting this,” Mohammad Imran, one of the two sentenced to death, said after the verdicts were handed down by the court sitting inside the Karachi central jail.

Mohammad Hanif, also given a death sentence, said Muslims were being targeted the world over. “Look what is happening in Iraq. It is a conspiracy of the US and Israel,” he said.

Prosecutors said the men belong to the shadowy Harkat-ul Mujahideen al-Almi militant group, a splinter faction of the outlawed Harkat-ul Mujahideen which is fighting Indian rule in Kashmir. The men, who pleaded not guilty, were charged with murder, attempted murder, terrorism, conspiracy and the use of explosives. The defence said it would appeal. The four, all bearded and wearing salwar kameez tunics and skull caps, greeted each other with hugs and warm handshakes when they were brought into the court. They sat relaxed behind iron bars in the makeshift court.

The mother of Shahrib Arslan, one of the two sentenced to jail, said Islamists were being punished at the behest of Washington. “Honest and pious people are being punished on the dictates of America,” said Rukhsana Farhat.

“It is shameful.”

Shahrib declined to comment as his three or four women relatives, all in Islamic robes, wailed and cried.

Islamic extremists, angry at President Pervez Musharraf's support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism, carried out a spate of attacks last year targeting Westerners, Christians and government officials.

Authorities launched a crackdown on extremist groups, arresting key militants thought responsible for some of the attacks, including a similar bombing on May 8 last year which killed 11 French naval engineers.

An anti-terrorism court last year sentenced British-born Islamic militant, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, to death for the kidnapping and murder of U.S. reporter Daniel Pearl in Karachi.

Execution in Pakistan is carried out by hanging, but usually after an exhaustive appeal process. A life sentence generally means a maximum of 25 years in jail.

The explosion blew in the windows of the consulate and surrounding buildings, including the Marriott Hotel next door, destroyed around 20 cars and scattered body parts 100 to 200 yards (metres) down the road.

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