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Suspect Involved in Musharraf Assassination Attempt Escapes Detention


Officials in Pakistan say a suspect in the 2003 assassination attempts on President Pervez Musharraf has escaped from custody.

The suspect is identified as Mushtaq Ahmad who had been sentenced to death by a military court in late November, for his role in the plot to kill President Musharraf.

Government officials say that just few days after his conviction, Ahmad escaped from an air force detetion facility in Rawalpindi, the garrison town near the Pakistani capital. But authorities kept what they termed the "security lapse" a secret until now. Guards at the detention center are said to have been detained for questioning.

Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed says nationwide efforts are
underway to capture the escapee.

"He escaped from police custody during investigation," he stated. "We are looking [for] him and he is a criminal and soon we will arrest him."

The minister says that the alleged Islamic militant was detained with other suspects in connection with two failed assassination attempts against President Musharraf in December, 2003.

Mr. Musharraf escaped unhurt in both the attacks in Rawalpindi. But at least 17 people were killed - including security personnel.

Pakistani authorities also have detained several junior-level officers from the Army and Air Force for allegedly helping Islamic militants carry out the two attacks. Trials of these suspects are currently underway.

Government officials say militants linked to the al Qaida terror network were behind the two assassination attempts because these forces are opposed to Mr. Musharraf's policies to curb religious extremism and terrorism.

Mr. Musharraf is a key U.S. ally in the war on terrorism and Pakistan has captured hundreds of al Qaida suspects, who were then handed over to the United States.

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