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Arrests in unresolved Bhutto case

Benazir Bhutto's assassination case 3 years ago is yet to be resolved but two senior officers were arrested Wednesday in relation

AFP, Wednesday 22 Dec 2010
Benazir Bhutto
Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto in Lahore 16 November 2007. (Reuters)
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Pakistani police on Wednesday arrested two senior police officers for alleged dereliction of duty over the 2007 assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, a prosecutor said.

Bhutto was assassinated almost exactly three years ago in a gun and suicide attack after addressing an election campaign rally in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, near the capital Islamabad, on December 27, 2007.

In April, a UN panel accused the government of failing to provide Bhutto with adequate protection and said investigations were hampered by intelligence agencies and other officials who impeded "an unfettered search for the truth".

A Rawalpindi court this month issued warrants for the arrest of Saud Aziz, who was city police chief at the time of the killing, and Khurram Shahzad, another senior policeman for their "failure" to protect Bhutto.

The pair were arrested at the court on the sidelines of a trial of five alleged Pakistani Taliban militants -- who have yet to be indicted and are little known -- detained in the weeks after the assassination.

"Both of the police officers have been arrested. The court rejected their application for bail and the judge said 'this was their duty to carry out the post-mortem'," special prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali told reporters.

He told AFP the officers were also accused of a security breach that failed to protect Bhutto from attack and for taking the controversial decision to hose down the scene of the killing, destroying key evidence.

Ali told AFP the police officers would be included in the trial of the five alleged militants. The court has been adjourned until January 7.

Both officers are still in service -- Aziz, 53, in Lahore and Shahzad, 38, in Rawalpindi -- but will be suspended from duty following their arrests, the prosecutor said.

According to the prosecutor, the judge rejected as evidence an audio tape in which Bhutto's husband, now President Asif Ali Zardari, apparently asked for the post-mortem examination not to be carried out.

He said a list of questions had also been sent to Pervez Musharraf, then Pakistan's military ruler, who has lived in self-imposed exile in London since he was replaced by Bhutto's elected widower.

At the time, Musharraf's government blamed the assassination on Pakistan's Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, who denied any involvement.
Mehsud was killed in a US drone attack in August 2009, one of the most high-profile casualties of the covert American campaign targeting Al-Qaeda and its allies in

Pakistan's lawless tribal belt on the Afghan border.

Pakistani police say that in addition to the five suspects in court, three others have been killed, including Mehsud, and two remain at large.

The five face charges of "criminal conspiracy" for bringing the suicide bomber from the tribal belt and keeping him at a house in Rawalpindi.
Bhutto, who served two terms as prime minister, returned from exile two months before she was assassinated, to stand for election.

Zardari led her Pakistan People's Party to election victory in February 2008 and is now the head of state, albeit with miserable approval ratings.

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