Islamabad, Jan. 25 (PTI): Two men, including prime suspect Asif Zaheer, were today formally charged in a suicide car-bombing that killed 11 French engineers in Karachi last year.
Asif Zaheer and Bashir Ahmed were charged with murder, terrorism, and conspiracy at a hearing in an anti-terrorism court headed by judge Shabbir Ahmed in Karachi. The trial is set to begin on February 1. The development comes amidst reports that French investigators were dissatisfied over the police’s refusal to grant permission to meet Asif Zaheer who reportedly confessed “voluntarily” about his involvement in the car bombing.
The French team had asked the police officers to arrange a meeting with Zaheer in order to check the veracity of the police claim regarding his confessional statement. However, the police rejected the request asking the French team to rely on its own investigations, Pakistani daily The News said.
The team of five French investigators, which arrived in Karachi earlier this week to discuss the case with Pakistani officials, had also raised some “serious questions” after receiving a presentation on Thursday and the police were unable to answer their queries, the paper said. It claimed that the FBI agents had cleared Zaheer in the case but Pakistani officials continue to insist he was the real culprit.
Fourteen persons, including 11 French engineers working on submarine project, were killed when a suicide bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into a car in which they were leaving Sheraton hotel in Karachi in May last year.
Amnesty slams murder
Amnesty International expressed “deep concern” today over the murder on Tuesday of a Pakistani author who has written controversial books critical of Muslim clerics.
The human rights group said the murder of Fazal Wahab Wahab followed a series of measures by local authorities in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) “to curtail the right of freedom of expression.” The London-based rights watchdog urged the NWFP government, led by Islamic fundamentalist parties, to bring the suspected perpetrators to justice. Local police said four men armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles shot dead Wahab while he was sitting in a shop in the northwestern hill resort of Mingora.