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Pakistan Sentences 9 Militants to Life for 2002 Attack - 2004-08-25

An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan has sentenced nine men to life in prison for an attack nearly two years ago on the Macedonian diplomatic mission in Karachi. Three people died in the attack.

The men are said to be members of an extremist Islamic group known as Harkatul Mujahideen al-Almi.

The special anti-terrorism court found them guilty of blowing up Macedonia's honorary consulate in Karachi in December 2002. The attack killed three Pakistanis, including a woman.

For security reasons, the trial was held inside Karachi's central prison and it lasted for more than a year.

In his verdict, the judge sentenced all nine to two terms of life in prison. Defense lawyers have promised to appeal the convictions to a higher court, but prosecutor Mazhar Qayum says, if that happens, the state would ask the court to increase the punishment.

"All the accused persons may file an appeal against the judgment. I also [will] recommend for an appeal for the enhancement of these convictions," he said.

Pakistani authorities also blame members of the militant al-Almi group for a failed assassination attempt on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and a deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Karachi two years ago.

Seven members of the group, which is linked to the al-Qaida network, already have been convicted for taking part in the two attacks. Pakistan's close cooperation in the U.S.-led war on terrorism has outraged Islamic extremists in the country. The government has been cracking down on these forces and security agencies have captured more than 60 al-Qaida suspects in the past month.