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Pakistani Government Blames Al-Qaida for Bhutto Assassination


Pakistan's government says al-Qaida terrorists were behind the assassination of opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

The Interior Ministry spokesman, Brigadier Javed Cheema, told reporters Friday the government had recorded intelligence intercepts during which al-Qaida leader Baitullah Mehsud congratulated terrorists for killing Ms. Bhutto.

Mehsud is one of Pakistan's most wanted militant leaders, and is believed to be based in the South Waziristan region on the Afghan border.

Cheema said Mesud was also behind the deadly October suicide bomb attacks targeting Ms. Bhutto in Karachi just hours after she returned to Pakistan from eight years in exile.

The spokesman said these same al-Qaida militants have repeatedly targeted top Pakistani officials and army and intelligence forces in a campaign to destabilize the country. He warned that opposition leader and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is also a terrorist target.

Cheema showed reporters a video of the last moments of Ms. Bhutto's life, as she stood in an armored vehicle to wave to supporters after an election rally.

He said Ms. Bhutto did not die from gunshot wounds or shrapnel from the suicide bomb attack - but instead died after the force of the blast caused her to smash her head on the lever of the vehicle's sunroof.

He said the Pakistani government had begun two high level investigations, one by the judiciary - and the other to be carried out by the Punjab police and forensic experts.

Cheema also said no effort would be spared to find those responsible for the assassination.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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