. . . Or Maybe Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Teamed Up with al-Qaeda on Bhutto Hit

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So you know what they say about early reports. According to the same reporter who received a phone call from al-Qaeda’s Afghanistan commander claiming responsibility for the Bhutto slaying, al-Qaeda contracted the hit out to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the group I cited in the last post as having minimal links to al-Qaeda.

“This is our first major victory against those [eg, Bhutto and President Pervez Musharraf] who have been siding with infidels [the West] in a fight against al-Qaeda and declared a war against mujahideen,” Mustafa told Asia Times Online by telephone.

He said the death squad consisted of Punjabi associates of the underground anti-Shi’ite militant group Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, operating under al-Qaeda orders.

The assassination of Bhutto was apparently only one of the goals of a large al-Qaeda plot, the existence of which was revealed earlier this month.

It’s not clear if that plot had any other successful components. An attack on Nawaz Sharif, Pervez Musharraf’s other civilian rival, failed.

U.S. intelligence officials aren’t yet vouching for the claim made by the commander, Mustafa Abu Al-Yazid. And it’s all murky as to who actually assassinated the ex-premier. But here’s a strategy that al-Qaeda or other Islamic extremists might have sought to execute by killing Bhutto.

Numerous assassination attempts on Pervez Musharraf have failed. So, in true asymmetric-war fashion, why not go after the softer target? Killing Bhutto helps destabilize Pakistan. As an ex-U.S. intelligence official told me yesterday, everyone in Pakistan already believes Musharraf had a hand in her death. So Musharraf suffers a crisis of legitimacy matched with a crisis of security. He has to deal with the already-ensuing riots, thereby diverting his security resources away from whatever not-particularly-successful-anyway counterterrorism efforts they’re engaged in. That’s a terrorist two-fer.

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