Pakistan Court Convicts Musharraf Plotters

A military court has convicted two soldiers, sentencing one to death and the other to life imprisonment, for involvement in an assassination attempt last year against Pakistan's President Gen. Pervez Musharraf (search), the army spokesman said Friday.

The pair were accused in the first of two bombings targeting Musharraf's motorcade in Rawalpindi, a garrison city near the capital, Islamabad, in December 2003, spokesman Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan told The Associated Press.

Sultan said both were low-ranking army personnel. He did not release their names, nor give details of their involvement in the Dec. 14 attack, when a huge bomb ripped through a bridge seconds after Musharraf's motorcade had passed. No one was hurt.

Neither would the spokesman say when the military court passed sentence, although intelligence sources said it was several weeks ago.

A Libyan Al Qaeda (search) operative is suspected to have plotted the two attacks against Musharraf, a key ally in the U.S.-led war on terrorism. In the second bombing, on Dec. 25, two suicide bombers tried to ram explosive-laden vehicles into Musharraf's limousine. The army chief was unhurt, but 17 people, mostly policemen, were killed.

A number of army and air force personnel were arrested in the aftermath, and Sultan said other soldiers were facing similar trials for the Dec. 14 attack.

An intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said nine or 10 junior military personnel had been arrested, and cases against them were expected to be decided soon. He also refused to divulge their alleged role in the bombing.

Authorities have said they are also holding a number of Islamic militants on suspicion of their links with those who masterminded and executed the attacks.

But they have yet to capture Abu Faraj al-Libbi (search), the Libyan Al Qaeda operative, whom Musharraf says masterminded the attacks. He is one of the most-wanted men in Pakistan, and authorities have offered a 20 million rupee (US$345,000; euro258,000) reward for information leading to his arrest.

A key associate of al-Libbi accused of helping him plot the bombings, Amjad Hussain Farooqi, was killed on Sept. 26 in a shootout with security forces in southern Pakistan. Farooqi was Pakistani and senior member of the outlawed Sunni Muslim militant group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

The involvement of military personnel in the attacks on Musharraf underscored the discontent the general has stirred by supporting the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan — even among elements of the establishment.

Pakistan backed the Taliban before ditching the hardline regime after it came under fire for harboring Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden, mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America.