ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, (AP) – Security agencies launched an investigation Tuesday into a suicide bombing that killed the army’s surgeon general, the highest-level military official to be assassinated since Pakistan joined the U.S.-led war on terror.
A team comprised of senior officials from the Federal Investigation Agency, the police and the army are investigating the attack, Interior Secretary Kamal Shah told The Associated Press.
Lt. Gen. Mushtaq Baig was killed Monday when a bomber blew himself up next to his car after it stopped at a traffic light on a busy road in Rawalpindi, a city just south of the capital.
Shah said the investigating team will look into all aspects of the bombing, including any foreign involvement.
“Let the investigators move a little. Then they can pinpoint who could be behind the attack,” Shah said.
Meanwhile, police on Tuesday said they had arrested four people claiming to be al-Qaida-linked terrorists who were planning to attack foreign missions.
So far the government has only blamed people who were “damaging the cause of Islam,” a reference to religious extremists.
Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said Baig had been the most senior army officer killed in an attack since President Pervez Musharraf sided with Washington against al-Qaida and the Taliban after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.
Suicide bombers have struck repeatedly in Rawalpindi, where the army has its headquarters, mostly targeting security forces. A gun and suicide attack also killed opposition leader Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi on Dec. 27.
Musharraf himself survived at least three attempts on his life before he retired as army chief in November.
He is now fighting for his political survival after Feb. 18 parliamentary elections in which his allies were defeated soundly. Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party finished first.
A presidential spokesman has dismissed suggestions from three U.S. senators that Musharraf might beat a dignified retreat from power.
Musharraf was elected to a new five-year presidential term last year by Pakistani lawmakers, “not by any senator from the United States,” spokesman Rashid Qureshi said Monday on Dawn News television. “So I don’t think he needs to respond to anything that is said by these people.”
On Tuesday, Bhutto’s widower Asif Zardari denied a Wall Street Journal report that he had offered to work with Musharraf.
Zardari had only pointed out that the opposition does not have a two-thirds majority in Parliament to impeach the president, said his spokesman, Farhatullah Babar.
“That does not mean we will have a working relationship with Musharraf. That relationship will be determined by the Parliament,” Babar told the AP.
In a separate written statement issued on behalf of Zardari, Babar said there is a “huge” difference between the absence of a two-thirds majority and an explicit desire to seek a working relationship with the President.”
The Pakistan People’s Party won 87 out of 272 seats in Parliament while former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s party won 67.
The four men who were arrested belonged to the al-Qaida-linked Lashker-e-Jhangvi, a banned militant organization blamed for several attacks in Pakistan, Masood Aziz, chief of Anti Terrorist Cell of Lahore police said Tuesday.
He said they were captured Monday night in the eastern city of Lahore from a public vehicle following an intelligence report. He did not elaborate.
Aziz identified one of those arrested as Fahad Munir, a nephew of Riaz Basara, who was wanted on terrorism charges but was killed by the police several years ago while on the run.
Aziz claimed that Munir had confessed to helping the extremists involved in the Nov. 1 suicide bomb attack on a Pakistan Air Force bus that killed eight people in Sargodha, a city about 125 miles south of the capital, Islamabad.