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Olmert: Bhutto victim of extremist Islam

Prime minister tells cabinet Israel must continue to assist countries fighting 'intolerance, extremism', denounce assassination of democracy-seeking leaders

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said at the onset of Sunday's weekly cabinet meeting that Benazir Bhutto "was a victim of extremist and fundamental Islamic terror of the kind we are so familiar with."

 

While those behind last Thursday's assassination of the Pakistani opposition leader have not been identified yet, the prime minister seemed convinced Islamic militants were to blame.

 

"Bhutto believed in freedom and democracy and fought for these values in Pakistan," Olmert told cabinet. "She returned to her country in order to get elected democratically, but she fell victim to extremist Islamic terror.

 

"We must denounce this phenomenon of assassinating democracy-seeking leaders who battle extremism and intolerance. We must assist countries that fight this phenomenon. This is how Israel has acted in this past, and this is how we must act now," the PM said.

 

On Friday Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf also blamed Islamic extremists for Bhutto's death. Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema told a news conference: "We have intelligence intercepts indicating that al Qaeda leader Baitullah Mehsud is behind (Bhutto's) assassination."

 

Mehsud is one of Pakistan's most wanted militant leaders and is based in the South Waziristan region on the Afghan border. Cheema said authorities recorded an intercept on Friday in which Mehsud had congratulated his people for the attack.

 

However, a spokesman for Mehsud denied the claim.

 

"I strongly deny it. Tribal people have their own customs. We don't strike women," Maulvi Omar said by telephone from an undisclosed location.

 

Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party also rejected the government's version. A spokesman said the government must show solid evidence.

 

"The government is nervous," he said. "They are trying to cover up their failure" to provide adequate security.

 

Reuters contributed to the report 

 


פרסום ראשון: 12.30.07, 13:11
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