'Low-ranking officers tried to blow up Musharraf'

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The Independent Online

Bombers who tried to assassinate the leader of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, last December were low-ranking air force and army officers, some with links to local extremists believed to be working for al-Qa'ida, the President said on television last night.

All had been captured and would face courts martial, he said. An army spokesman added that fewer than 10 suspects had been arrested and the Pakistani who masterminded the plot remained at large.

Many hardline Islamists in Pakistan have rejected General Musharraf's pro-Western stance in Washington's war on terrorism and for moving closer to peace with India, but the two murder attempts on the President had all the hallmarks of an inside job.

While some of the military, particularly members of the Inter Services Intelligence agency, continued to back the Taliban, greed was also a factor for his would-be assassins, the President said.

"Some of them are in it not even for any religious motivation. Some of them are in it for money," President Musharraf told GEO TV in Islamabad. He was "200 per cent sure" that no senior officers were involved.

Seconds after the presidential motorcade crossed an overpass near Islamabad on 14 December, five powerful explosives demolished the structure. No one was seriously hurt. On 25 December, two pickups packed with plastic explosives rammed the presidential convoy, killing 16 and wounding 46.