A terrorist affiliated with the proscribed Tehreek-e-Taliban-Pakistan, allegedly part of the cell that assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, has denied his involvement in the attack in a video released by the group, reported the BBC News.
Ikramullah, who was allegedly the ‘backup suicide bomber’, appeared in the video filmed by militants in eastern Afghanistan. The commander of the Taliban splinter group, Shaheryar, further claimed in the video that the Pakistani Taliban were not involved in the attack, and blames it on the country’s then-ruler Pervez Musharraf.
Musharraf has been declared a proclaimed offender after being charged with ‘abetment and conspiracy to murder’ in relation to Bhutto’s death, but has not appeared in court.
He is currently in self-imposed exile in Dubai and has denied any involvement in Bhutto’s death or having deliberately not provided her with adequate security.
Security officials who investigated the assassination concluded that Ikramullah walked away from the scene of the crime when the other suicide bomber succeeded in assassinating Bhutto at an election rally in 2007.
Former interior minister Rehman Malik told BBC that the militant was ‘totally lying’ as other suspects had named him in court as one of the bombers.
Malik added that Ikramullah was ‘the only living person’ with inside information on the Bhutto case, as the majority of other militants linked to the case have since been killed. He further said that Ikramullah’s denial could be motivated by fear that he might eventually be detained in Afghanistan and handed over to Pakistan.
Described as a senior figure in his group, Ikramullah repeatedly states in the video he was neither ‘involved’ nor ‘aware of’ the plot to kill Bhutto. He is on a list of most-wanted terror suspects.
BBC quotes a source as saying that Ikramullah was until recently quite proud of his involvement in the assassination plot, but changed his earlier statements which acknowledged his guilt in light of threats from rival militants and Pakistani security services.
“The whole of the Pakistani Taliban, and even young children from the tribal areas know he was involved,” the source told BBC.
Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in a bomb-and-gun attack on her car in Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007, as she left an election rally. She had also survived an earlier attempt in October when she was targetted upon her return to Pakistan after years in exile, in which bombers killed more than 150 people.
Five terrorists were charged with involvement in the plot to assassinate the former prime minister, but still remain in detention and pending an appeal.
The leader of the Pakistani Taliban at the time, Baitullah Mehsud – who died in US strike in 2009 – had also denied that the group was responsible in the December 2007 attack.