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U.S.: Bhutto accusation ‘outrageous’

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A retired Pakistani intelligence chief says the U.S. played a role in the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, a charge the U.S. has dismissed as "outrageous."

Retired Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul, former chief of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, has accused the U.S. of being responsible for the attack that killed Mrs. Bhutto at election rally in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, Pakistan, on Dec. 27, 2007.

"I am convinced that America has a hand in [Mrs. Bhutto's] assassination," Gen. Gul last week told Aaj-TV, without elaborating.

Calling the statement "outrageous and baseless," the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad said: "At the time of Ms. Bhutto's murder, the U.S. swiftly and publicly condemned the act and called for an independent investigation."

The embassy said "his statements were not challenged by any of the TV hosts who invited him to their programs," even though Gen. Gul offered no proof to support his charges.

On Oct. 16, 2007, Mrs. Bhutto wrote a letter to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in which she named Gen. Gul among three people whom she considered a threat to her security. The other two were Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, the former chief minister of Pakistan's Punjab province, and retired Brig. Ejaz Shah, who was director general of the Intelligence Bureau at the time of Mrs. Bhutto's assassination.

Gen. Gul refused to be interviewed by a United Nations panel that investigated Mrs. Bhutto's death at the request of the Pakistani government. The report was handed over to the government in Islamabad this month.

The U.N. report said sources, including a former high-ranking foreign official, thought the trio named by Mrs. Bhutto "posed genuine threats to her security, linking them to the establishment and its long-standing enmity towards [Mrs. Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party] and the Bhutto family."

But, it added, "the commission received no information of specific threats that they may have directed against Ms. Bhutto."

As ISI chief, Gen. Gul worked closely with the CIA and was instrumental in supporting the mujahedeen in Afghanistan against the Soviet army in the 1970s and '80s. He turned anti-American when the U.S. disengaged from Afghanistan after the Soviet defeat.