Published On: Mon, Jan 25th, 2016

Khalid Shahim and Syed Mohsin Ali confess to killing of Imran Farooq in London

The two alleged hit-men, Khalid Shahim left and Syed Mohsin Ali

By Philip Sherwell and Mohammad Zubair Khan

Two alleged assassins of a Pakistani politician knifed to death on a London street have testified that they travelled from Pakistan to commit the killing on the orders of rival British-based leaders of his party.

The murder brought Pakistan’s violent gangster politics to suburban Edgware, where Mr Farooq lived an apparently low-key life with his wife and young sons in a quiet side street lined with apple trees.

Unbeknown to his neighbours, Mr Farooq was also a leader of the the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), a party with a long association with violence in his homeland. He was granted asylum in Britain and later gained British citizenship, but he was believed to be planning to form a breakaway faction when he was murdered.

Details of their confessions to a closed court hearing in Pakistan have now been leaked to The Sunday Telegraph by an official close to the investigation. They reveal how the killers allegedly bought a five-inch knife from a high street “pound store” and then struck at their victim as he arrived home from work.

It was later recovered at the scene, along with a brick used to bludgeon their victim.

The crude means of dispatching their target could not have been more different than the polonium used in the murder of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, which a public inquiry last week week blamed on the Kremlin.

But it has demonstrated once again the relative ease with which foreign hitmen could fly into Britain to settle political scores on the streets of London.

The two alleged Pakistani hit-men, Khalid Shahim and Syed Mohsin Ali, revealed details of the killings in “confessional statements”, recorded and sworn before a presiding magistrate, that are considered court evidence under Pakistani law.

Mr Mohsin Ali said that he grabbed Mr Farooq as he arrived outside his home, while another MQM operative slashed his neck with the knife

He added that both had been monitoring his movements so that they knew his routine. The killers struck at 5.30pm on a September afternoon and then headed straight to the airport to flee back to Pakistan that night.

They had travelled to Britain on student visas obtained by another alleged conspirator in Pakistan and stayed at an unidentified college hostel while they planned the attack, he added.

A third arrested man, Moazzam Ali, is alleged to have provided them with the logistics for their trip to Britain. The use of student visas will raise fresh concerns in Britain about the potential for abuse of that system.

The two men were arrested last year as they tried to slip into Pakistan from Afghanistan and appeared before a special terrorism court last Thursday.

They said that the murder plot was ordered because Mr Farooq was deemed a “potent threat” to the MQM leadership.

Mr Khalid said that they operated under the direction of Mohammad Anwar, a senior lieutenant of Altaf Hussein, the London-based head of the MQM. The funds to execute the mission were also provided from London, he added.

Scotland Yard detectives are understood to have travelled to Pakistan to interview the men in September. Although the two countries do not have an extradition treaty, proceedings are believed to have been underway and Pakistan has indicated that it would be willing to hand the men over.

Since the arrests, Islamabad has attempted to intensify pressure on Britain to bring charges over the murder against Mr Hussein and other exiled party leaders in London.

Mr Hussein has consistently denied any involvement in the murder of Mr Farooq. His supporters claim that the allegations against him are part of a long-running political smear campaign by political foes in Pakistan.

But Pakistan’s federal investigation agency (FIA) has now filed a court report naming Mr Hussein and several allies as co-conspirators in the murder for the first time.

In the filing, seen by The Telegraph, the FIA’s counter-terrorism wing states: “The assassination of Imran Farooq was the result of a conspiracy hatched in UK and Pakistan, by among others, Altaf Hussain, Mohammad Anwar [another senior member] and Iftikhar Hussain [the leader’s nephew].”

It claims that the Mr Farooq was murdered “to remove the threat to the leadership of the MQM of Altaf Hussain and to intimidate/overawe public in general and workers/members of MQM in particular by creating a sense of fear and insecurity in the community”.

The case, known as a “first information report”, covers charges of conspiracy, assistance, abetment and ultimate assassination and murder under sections of the Pakistan Penal Code and Anti-Terrorism Act. The crimes carry the death penalty.

The Telegraph has learned that Pakistani officials have become frustrated that Scotland Yard has not launched any proceedings against MQM leaders in London. Mr Hussain has previously been questioned in Britain as part of a money-laundering investigation.

Pakistan has now indicated that it might use the new testimony to apply for the extradition of Mr Hussain and his cohorts via Interpol. The request would go nowhere as Britain will not extradite to a country for a death penalty offence, but Islamabad may make a request as an attempt to try to exert further pressure on Britain.

After the accused assassins gave their statements, the MQM issues a statement denying that any member of the party was involved in the murder.

“We categorically state that no party personnel have had anything whatever to do with the tragic death of Dr Farooq. We mourn the loss of a man who was our friend and colleague for many years.

“MQM welcomes any assistance that may be provided to the British Metropolitan Police Service, who continue to investigate the death of Dr Farooq.”

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