Four convicted over US consulate blast

 

A Pakistan court has convicted four men of involvement in last year's suicide bombing outside the US Consulate in the port city of Karachi, handing down death sentences to two of the men.

An anti-terrorism court judge, Syed Aalay Maqbool Rizvi, found them guilty on Monday of organising the June 14 bombing in which 12 Pakistanis were killed.

Two men were given life sentences, while a fifth man was acquitted.Suspected Islamic militants packed a vehicle with explosives and detonated it outside the consulate during the morning rush hour.

"Four men have been found guilty," Rizvi told the court inside Karachi central jail where the trial was held."Mohammad Imran and Mohammad Hanif have been given death sentences and a fine of 500,000 rupees each," he said. "Life sentences have been given to Hafiz Mohammad Zubair and Shahrib Arslan, plus a fine of 500,000 rupees."

"Mohammad Ashraf has been acquitted," he said in his brief ruling.

Prosecutors said the men belong to a shadowy militant group called Harkat-ul Mujahideen al-Almi. The group is a splinter faction of the outlawed Harkat-ul Mujahideen, fighting Indian rule in the disputed Kashmir region.The men, who pleaded not guilty, were charged with murder, attempted murder, terrorism, conspiracy and the use of explosives.

They can appeal their conviction in the High Court within seven days.Islamic extremists, angry at President Pervez Musharraf's support to the US-led war on terrorism, carried out a spate of attacks last year targeting westerners, Christians and government officials.

Authorities launched a crackdown on extremist groups, arresting key militants thought responsible for some of the attacks, including the two men allegedly involved in a similar bombing on May 8, 2002 which killed 11 French naval engineers.