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3 militants get death term for Karachi hotel bomb blast

Karachi, June 30 (Reuters): A Pakistani anti-terrorism court sentenced three Islamic militants to death today for organising a suicide bomb attack that killed 11 French naval technicians in Karachi last year.

A car packed with explosives blew up outside the Sheraton Hotel in Karachi on May 8 last year, killing the Frenchmen, who were helping Pakistan build submarines. Three Pakistanis, including the bomber, also died.

Two of the men convicted, Asif Zaheer and Rizwan Ahmed Basheer, appeared for the sentencing at Karachi’s Central Prison. A third man, Mohammad Sohail, who is on the run, was sentenced to death in absentia. Zaheer and Basheer had pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, terrorism, possession of explosives and conspiracy.

Judge Feroze Mahmood Bhatti said he found the men guilty of planning the attack, which also wounded 23 people, and of the other charges.

“Therefore, the court gives them the death sentence,” he said. A fourth man, Adnan Qamar, was acquitted in absentia. “It was a well-planned conspiracy,” Bhatti said. “A vehicle was crashed into the bus carrying French engineers. It was a terrorist incident.”

Police said the militants belonged to Harkat-ul Mujahideen al-alami group, which is a shadowy breakaway faction of the Harkat-ul Mujahideen group fighting Indian forces in Kashmir.

Harkat-ul Mujahideen was previously known as Harkat-ul Ansar, but changed its name after being declared a terrorist group by the US in the late 1990s.

Haroon al-Qasmi, a defence lawyer for Zaheer, said he would challenge the verdict in the High Court.

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