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Court Sentences 5 to Death for Assassination Attempt on Pakistani President

A military court in Pakistan has sentenced five men to death for their roles in a 2003 plot to assassinate President Pervez Musharraf. Three others in the case have been given lesser sentences.

Pakistan Army spokesman Major-General Shaukat Sultan says the military court has found the eight men guilty of taking part in one of two back-to-back assassination attempts on President Pervez Musharraf in late 2003.

He says all of them were arrested after suicide bombers tried to blow up the president's motorcade in the city of Rawalpindi near the Pakistani capital. General Sultan says those given the death sentences include a soldier.

"They have been convicted in the assassination attempt that was on the president on 25 December, 2003. The people who have been given capital punishment, that is death sentence, they are five, one from the army and the remaining all are civilians," he said.

The general says three other civilians received prison sentences in connection with the assassination attempt. One of them was sentenced to life in prison.

The attack claimed 16 lives. Most of the 16 were mostly security personnel.

The attack came 11 days after local militants with the al-Qaida network, with the help of Islamic extremists in Pakistan, tried to kill Mr. Musharraf by blowing up his motorcade on a bridge. That attempt took place not far from the location where the second attack occurred.

Since joining hands with the United States in its war against terrorism, President Musharraf has survived three known attempts on his life. The president himself has said that a key al-Qaida leader, Abu Farraj al-Libbi, masterminded the 2003 attacks because he supported Washington in its fight against extremist forces.

The suspected al-Qaida militant was arrested in May this year in northwestern Pakistan and was later handed over to U.S authorities.

Friday's court decision came days after a Pakistani soldier, Islam Sidiqqui, was hanged at a jail in the central city of Multan for his role in one of the two attempts in December 2003. An unspecified number of suspected militants and low-ranking army officers are also under trial but media and public are barred from attending proceedings in any of these trials.