| Musharraf: Face-to-face with terrorism
Islamabad, Dec. 28: Pakistani officials today claimed a major breakthrough in the investigations into the suicide attack on President Pervez Musharraf last Thursday and said clues had led the officials to Kashmiri and foreign militant outfits.
“Both the suicide bombers have been identified. One of them belonged to Kashmir (territory held by Pakistan) and the other was from the North West Frontier Province,” said Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed, the information minister.
Five Afghans were also arrested in Karachi, taking the number of detained in the case to 25.
Earlier, officials were quoted in media reports as saying the identification of the two assailants provided crucial leads which resulted in several arrests from Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Rawala Kot on the Pakistani side of Kashmir.
The recognisable face of one of the attackers and some other remains found at the spot of the attack near the military headquarters in Rawalpindi, including a cellphone chip and some documents found from a nearby house, led to the breakthrough, the officials claimed.
Musharraf had a narrow escape when two explosives-laden vehicles hit his motorcade one after the other, killing 17 people, including the suicide bombers.
The information minister, who had on Saturday claimed that the security agencies had penetrated at least 70 per cent of the network involved in the incident, told The Telegraph today it was premature at this stage to single out one or the other group.
“We have made big inroads into the network and might soon get the people involved in the attack on the President,” he said.
Ahmed’s statement came in the backdrop of reports by the private Geo Television which claimed the assailants had been identified as Muahmmad Jameel, a resident of Rawala Kot, and Hazir Sultan, an Afghan national from the Panjsher Valley, home of slain Afghan commander Ahmad Shah Masood.
Jameel’s father told investigators his son had joined some militant outfit after he was expelled from home for “bad habits”.
A car dealer in Islamabad confirmed Jameel as the person who had purchased from him the vehicle used in the attack, the Islamabad-based daily, The Nation, said. The paper quoted unnamed officials as saying the bomber belonged to the outfit, whose leader (Maulana Masood Azhar) was released by India in a swap for passengers of a hijacked Indian airliner in Kabul in December 1999.
Masood Azhar is the founder of Jaish-e-Mohammad, which has changed its name after Pakistan banned it.
The investigators have made over a dozen arrests from Rawala Kot, Rawalpindi and Islamabad, the officials said. It is learnt that Hazir Sultan and Jameel had bought explosives from the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. Teams have also been sent to those areas, where army and intelligence agencies have a big presence to hunt down fugitive al Qaida and Taliban remnants.
Pakistan’s National Assembly tonight ratified Musharraf’s presidency with a two-third majority after the Islamist Alliance, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, voted for an amendment bill following a deal with the government.