KARACHI, (Reuters) – A Pakistani anti-terrorism court sentenced 11 members of an al Qaeda-linked Islamic group to death on Tuesday after finding them guilty of killing 10 people in an attack on a top military commander in 2004, lawyers said.
All the convicts belonged to Jundullah, a shadowy group analysts say has ties with al Qaeda and foreign militants.
Judge Feroz Mehmood Bhatti said all those accused were found guilty of masterminding attacks on a convoy escorting then Lieutenant-General Ahsan Saleem Hayat in June 2004.
Hayat, now a full General, escaped unharmed, but 10 people, including six soldiers, were killed and 12 other people wounded.
The ambush was in response to a security force operation in South Waziristan, around 400 km (250 miles) southwest of Islamabad, where hundreds of people have died in clashes between the Pakistani army and militants in the past two years.
Atta-ur Rehman, the ring-leader of the group, said they would appeal to a higher court.
“That court was fake, it had no power,” he told reporters after the verdict. “We will appeal at the high court within seven days.”
Witnesses said all the convicts chanted “Allahu Akbar” — God is Greatest — after hearing the judgement.
Mullah Bux Bhatti, a state lawyer said he was satisfied with the verdict and the conviction was based on the confession made by the convicts.
Government officials and Western interests have been a target for al Qaeda-linked groups in Pakistan since President Prevez Musharraf pledged support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
Musharraf, a key ally in the U.S.-led war on terrorism, narrowly escaped an attempt to kill him on Dec. 14, 2003, when a bomb blew up a bridge in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, minutes after his motorcade passed it.
On Dec. 25, 2003, Musharraf survived a second attempt on his life when attackers rammed a car bomb into his motorcade, killing 15 people.