by Safiullah Gul
Pakistani security officials in Dera Ismail Khan, a southern district of the North West Frontier Province, on Saturday claimed that they arrested a teenager allegedly involved in the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. Ms Bhutto was assassinated on December 27, 2007 in Rawalpindi when she was leaving in her vehicle after addressing her supporters. She was the chairperson of Pakistan People’s Party.
The suspect, 15-year-old hafiz Aitezaz Shah, told investigators that he had been part of a five-man squad deployed that day in Rawalpindi, a senior intelligence official said requesting anonymity.
In Islamabad, however, a government spokesman said he could not confirm the official's claim. Interior Ministry spokesman Jawed Iqbal Cheema said he had no information about any arrests, or about any new developments in the Bhutto case.
The intelligence official said Shah told investigators that the team of assassins had been dispatched by Baitullah Mehsud, the supreme commander of the Tehreek (movement) Taliban Pakistan operating mainly in tribal areas.
Benazir died when one member of the squad, whom Shah allegedly identified as Bilal, fired at her and detonated an explosive vest as Benazir was leaving an election campaign rally in Rawalpindi.
A senior district police officer in Dera Ismail Khan, a town 290 km west of Peshawar, confirmed Shah's arrest and said the suspect had made “a sensational disclosure”.
The officer requested anonymity. Shah was arrested Thursday in Dera Ismail Khan with another militant identified as Sher Zaman, according to both officials.
The intelligence official said that Shah had told investigators he was supposed to carry out a suicide attack on a mosque there on Sunday during the Ashura (10th of the first month Muharram of the Islamic calander), and that Zaman was going to provide him with an explosive vest.
Shah named the man who assisted Bilal in the attack on Benazir as Ikram, the official said.
In the port city of Karachi, police arrested five ix suspected militants who were planning a suicide attack there, said Azhar Farouqi, the provincial police chief.
He said police also recovered explosives and detonators used for suicide vests.
Intelligence sources say that still four would-be bombers are present in Dera Ismail Khan. They say that Shah had provided them a list of 50 suspected suicide bombers and all of them teenagers who have reached various cities of the country.
Investigators also said that Shah told them that he received training in a camp in Della area of the troubled South Waziristan Agency.