Pakistani police have formally charged a top Taliban and al-Qaida linked leader with the murder of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

Police Saturday said they filed preliminary charges against Baitullah Mehsud and four others in an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi. The five suspects have been declared absconders, with a judge issuing non-bailable warrants for their arrest.

The Pakistani government and U.S. Central Intelligence Agency have accused Mehsud of plotting the December 27 gun and suicide attack on former prime minister Bhutto in Rawalpindi.

Mehsud is believed to be based in the tribal region of South Waziristan, along the Afghan border.

Police have already arrested five other suspects in connection with the case, including a 15-year boy.

In other news Saturday, the brother of former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been acquitted on charges that he ordered the killings of five militants in 1998.

Shahbaz Sharif was formally cleared of the charges during a court hearing Saturday in Lahore, after the families of the men withdrew their accusations.

Sharif was chief minister of the province of Punjab when the killings occurred.

The Sharif brothers were forced into exile in Saudi Arabia for several years before being allowed to return home to Pakistan last November. Both were barred from the February elections because of criminal charges.

Saturday's acquittal clears the way for Shahbaz Sharif to contest a by-election.

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