- The Washington Times - Friday, December 24, 2004

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — A Pakistani soldier has been sentenced to death and another soldier given 10 years imprisonment after they were convicted in an attempt to assassinate President Pervez Musharraf, an army spokesman said yesterday.

Other air force and army personnel are facing similar trials in military courts over last year’s bomb attack — believed to have been plotted by a Libyan al Qaeda operative with help from Pakistani Islamist militants — Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan said.

Gen. Sultan did not identify the two low-ranking army soldiers who were convicted, nor give details of their involvement in the Dec. 14, 2003, attack, when a huge bomb ripped through a bridge seconds after Gen. Musharraf’s motorcade passed on a major road in Rawalpindi, a garrison city close to the capital Islamabad. No one was hurt.

The army spokesman would not say when the military court passed sentence against the pair. Intelligence sources said it was several weeks ago.

Gen. Musharraf survived another bombing on the same road in Rawalpindi just 11 days after the attack. Two suicide bombers tried to ram explosives-laden vehicles into the president’s limousine. Gen. Musharraf was unhurt, but 17 persons, mostly policemen, were killed.

A Libyan al Qaeda operative, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, is accused of masterminding the attacks with a prominent Pakistani militant, Amjad Hussain Farooqi, who was killed on Sept. 26 in a shootout with security forces in southern Pakistan. Farooqi was also implicated in the 2003 kidnapping and beheading of Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl.

Al-Libbi remains at large, and authorities have offered a $345,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.

Gen. Musharraf, who took power in a bloodless coup in 1999, has enraged Islamic hard-liners, including elements in the Pakistani establishment, for his staunch support of the U.S.-led war on terrorism. He abandoned Pakistan’s backing of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan after it came under fire for harboring Osama bin Laden after the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

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