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Musharraf Points to al-Qaida and Military in Assassination Attempt - 2004-05-27

Pakistan's president and top military leader, General Pervez Musharraf, says al-Qaida and some members of the Pakistani military were involved in two failed attempts on his life in December.

President Musharraf told local Geo Television news, the two assassination attempts were made at the behest of the al-Qaida network and carried out by Pakistani extremists.

"That mastermind certainly is in the foreigners around here, we call them al-Qaida," he said. "At what level this foreign initiative [comes from], whether it comes from some order from the highest level, by which I mean Mr. [Ayman al-] Zawahiri or Osama bin Laden, I don't know that."

On December 14, Mr. Musharraf's motorcade narrowly missed a bomb placed on a bridge along the route. Just two weeks later, the president's convoy was again attacked, this time by two suicide bombers in separate cars who blew themselves up alongside the motorcade.

Mr. Musharraf said the organizer of the attacks was a Pakistani who has been identified but remains at large, while almost all others involved are now in custody and will soon face trial.

He added that some "junior officers" were directly involved in the first incident and participated in the second. "There are some people in uniform, air force and army, but they are very small, very junior," he added.

If President Musharraf's allegations prove true, it would mark the first assassination attempt by members of his own military since he took power in a bloodless coup in 1999.

Pakistani political commentator Ayaz Amir said that the participation of low-ranking officers and enlisted men means little and that the president's support among the senior military staff is still very strong.

"It's nowhere like suggesting that the armed forces structure is split and there are people with him and people against him," he explained. "I mean, that would be far fetched."

Some Pakistanis are strongly opposed to President Musharraf's secular policies and his cooperation with the United States in its war on terror.

However, Mr. Musharraf says a number of the servicemen involved in the plots were motivated by money rather than ideology.