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Pakistani prosecutor gunned down on way to court

ISLAMABAD -- Gunmen Friday killed the lead Pakistani prosecutor in two high-profile cases -- the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and the deadly assault on civilians in Mumbai, India -- shocking a country reeling from Taliban attacks as it prepares for nationwide elections.

Chaudhry Zulfikar Ali was gunned down as he drove to court in the normally quiet capital, where diplomats, government and military officials and aid workers live.

Nobody claimed responsibility for the killing, but Ali's work put him in direct conflict with militant groups and suspicion immediately fell on them.

Taliban militants have tried to derail the nationwide elections set for May 11 with shootings and bombings aimed at candidates. Also Friday, gunmen in Karachi killed an anti-Taliban candidate along with his 6-year-old son and a political activist.

Ali was leading the prosecution against several suspected Taliban militants as well as former military ruler Pervez Musharraf for alleged roles in the 2007 Bhutto assassination. He was also prosecuting militants linked to the 2008 terror attack in Mumbai that killed 166.

The lawyer was on his way to a court in Rawalpindi, next to Islamabad, when gunmen shot him in the head, shoulder and chest, and then fled, said police officer Arshad Ali.

Chaudhry Ali lost control of his car and hit a woman passing by and killed her, said another police officer, Mohammed Rafiq. His bodyguard returned fire and is believed to have wounded at least one of the attackers, Rafiq added.

Hasan-Askari Rizvi, an independent political analyst, said it was difficult to say who might have been responsible for the attack because Ali was involved in a number of dangerous prosecutions.

But he said the fact that someone was able to kill such a prominent government official and then escape in what is supposed to be the most protected city in the country and highlights the inability of the state to protect its citizens against militancy.

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