Sunday, October 15, 2006
Pakistan catches alleged plottersISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- Pakistan's president on Wednesday said authorities had captured "extremists" allegedly behind an attempt on his life.
Gen. Pervez Musharraf's comments were the first to confirm that any suspects were in custody following last week's explosion in a park near his residence in Rawalpindi, the garrison city close to the capital, Islamabad, and the discovery of two rockets planted near the National Assembly. (Full story)
Asked at a news conference whether the explosion and rockets were meant for him, Musharraf said: "I cannot say for sure whether I was being targeted. Maybe I was."
"We have unearthed the whole gang. We have caught the culprits and they are extremists," he said without describing them further nor saying how many had been detained.
Nobody was hurt in either incident. On Saturday, another two Russian-made 107 mm rockets were found and defused near the headquarters of Pakistan's spy agency. The interior minister said they were planted by "miscreants," a term often used by Pakistani officials when referring to Islamic militants.
Musharraf has survived at least three known attempts on his life since taking power in a bloodless coup in 1999. At least 16 people were killed in a suicide bomb attack on his convoy in Rawalpindi in 2003.
The attempts on Musharraf have been blamed on al-Qaeda-linked militants.
The Pakistani president also said that a Sept. 5 truce between Islamic militants and the government in the North Waziristan tribal region was not assured, saying it was vital that local authorities help strengthen the standing of the traditional tribal elders in the area over pro-Taliban extremists.
"There is no guarantee that it will succeed," he said of the peace deal.
Some U.S. and NATO officials have suggested that Pakistan's truce with militants in North Waziristan, which ended fighting that broke out after the 2001 American-led invasion of Afghanistan, could provide a sanctuary for armed extremists attacking foreign troops in Afghanistan.
Pakistani officials have vowed to not let militants in the area conduct attacks inside Pakistan or Afghanistan.
"Let's take the people away from the militant Taliban. Let's take them on our side against the militants," Musharraf said. "We have to win this battle against extremists."
Musharraf angered Islamic radicals after allying Pakistan with the U.S.-led war against terrorism following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
"We have to win this battle against extremists," Musharraf told reporters Wednesday.
Musharraf has said Pakistani authorities have handed about 700 al-Qaeda-linked suspects over to U.S. authorities since 2001. But top al-Qaeda figures, including Osama bin Laden, are believed to be at large along the porous Pakistan-Afghan border frontier.
Amid concern over North Korea's nuclear program, Musharraf described Pakistan's atomic weapons capabilities as "fully operational."
Pakistan has a working nuclear weapons delivery system, trained manpower and a command and control setup capable of firing nuclear weapons, he said, rejecting fears that his country's atomic bombs could fall into the hands of extremists.
"Pakistan is a very responsible country," he said.
Pakistan and arch foe India are both nuclear-armed and have fought three conventional wars since their 1947 independence from Britain, two of which over Kashmir.
Musharraf said Pakistan is trying through "secret contacts" to reach a solution with India over Kashmir, which is split in two parts by the South Asian rivals.
He did not elaborate but Pakistan and India have been engaged in a stop-start peace process since 2004.
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