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'Mehusd sent people to kill Benazir'

Last updated on: June 20, 2009 00:22 IST
A former aide of Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud has accused him of plotting the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto in 2007.

Turkistan Bhitani, who has broken away from the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan leader, has said in media interviews that Mehsud told him he had sent two men to assassinate Bhutto in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, where she was killed in a gun and bomb attack in December 2007.

Bhitani told two TV news channels that Mehsud was behind the December 27, 2007 assassination of Bhutto. He told Geo News channel he had heard Mehsud say that he had sent two associates to Rawalpindi to kill Bhutto.

Bhutto was assassinated shortly after she addressed an election rally in Rawalpindi ahead of the general elections.

Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf had accused Mehsud of masterminding Bhutto's murder shortly after she was killed.

Bhitani said he was breaking ties with Mehsud because he blames the Pakistani Taliban chief for killing scores of innocent Muslims in recent attacks.

He accused Mehsud of being an "agent" of the United States who is being "funded by Israel and India."

He said Mehsud was misguiding youth at the "instigation of Israel and India" to carry out suicide attacks that target mosques, educational institutions and religious scholars.

Mehsud's role as a "US agent" was the reason why he was never targeted in American drone attacks in Pakistan's tribal belt, Bhitani claimed.

Bhitani's allegations came just days after the Pakistan army announced that it had been ordered by the government to launch an operation against Mehsud and his network in South Waziristan tribal region.

Air strikes have targeted Taliban positions in the tribal region over the past few days. Qari Zainuddin, another militant commander opposed to Mehsud, has also accused him of having links with Israel and India.

Zainuddi has also claimed in a media interview that Mehsud was acting against Islam and Pakistan.

Acknowledging his differences with Mehsud, Zainuddin said they had separated over the issue of suicide attacks and carrying out militant actions within Pakistan.

He said the Taliban movement had been formed to fight foreign forces in Afghanistan and Islam does not permit attacks inside Pakistan.

Zainuddin also said he would have no objections if the Pakistan army launches any operation against Mehsud.

Militants who are aligned with Mehsud, however, describe Bhitani and Zainuddin as "pro-government" commanders.

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