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Plotter of Benazir’s death dead, amid growing mystery

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Many conspirators have died in separate incidents

By Umar Cheema

ISLAMABAD: An important commander of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Ebad-ul-Rehman alias Farooq Chatan, wanted for allegedly coordinating assassination of Benazir Bhutto, is said to have been killed along with his brother Yousaf, in the first-ever drone strike in Khyber Agency two weeks ago.

There is no official word available but intelligence sources involved in tracking his movement said they are 95 per cent sure that he had been killed. “The rest 5 per cent confirmation can only be obtained through DNA testing and we do not have access to the body,” said an intelligence source. An official of the ISPR said they generally don’t confirm or deny killings of particular militant leaders.

A drone strike on May 15 had reportedly left around 15 people dead, including 13 militants. The local administration denying that it was a drone strike, had said the attack was carried out by a Pakistani fighter plane. According to sources, those killed other than Ebad-ul-Rehman and his brother Yousaf included eight Uzbek militants.

Ebad-ul-Rehman is believed to have coordinated between the TTP and the al-Qaeda the assassination plan of Benazir Bhutto as multiple teams were deputed to places where Benazir Bhutto was addressing the election rallies. It transpired during the investigation with those arrested in connection of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination that the plan was first approved by Abu Abaida al-Misri, the head of al-Qaeda’s Shura, and allegedly executed by Baitullah Mehsud-led TTP.

Abu Abaida died in January 2008, due to illness. Another TTP leader, Nadir alias Ismail, from district Swabi, who was allegedly in-charge of this assassination squad and reportedly presided over the meeting in Akora Khattak of the bombers sent on the mission, was intriguingly also killed, again in January 2008, during in an encounter with the Frontier Corps.

As far as Ebad-ul-Rehman is concerned, he belonged to Malakand Agency, and was a Hafiz-e-Quran and a frequent user of satellite phone. He was carrying the head money in millions of rupees. Killed in drone strikes near the Jabrol Camp located in Ragha area in Tirah Valley in Landikotal Tehsil of Khyber Agency, Ebad is said to have been buried in Tirah.

As the investigators were looking into the family tree obtained from the Nadra record, they found his eight relatives working in lower positions in a security institution, four of them were declared deserters as they had quit their jobs never to return. The rest of the four, who were still in service, were investigated for their possible links with Ebad but found to be innocent.

A source, however, told The News that TTP chief Baitullah Mehsud had denied the charge of involvement in Benazir Bhutto’s killing. He had then said that Taliban did not kill women. The source said the TTP used to own what they did and they never owned Benazir’s killing.

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