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Pakistan

Salvation Army Satisfied With Police Conclusion On Leader´s Murder

Updated: October 30, 2007 05:00 PM GMT
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The Salvation Army in Pakistan has accepted a police conclusion that the murderer of its national leader is one of its former officers.

Lahore police declared at an Oct. 20 press conference that Major Mark Younis Joseph, a former assistant territorial manager of the Salvation Army (SA), confessed during interrogation that he hired two assassins to kill Colonel Bo Brekke, the late SA territorial commander for Pakistan. The murder happened on Sept. 27 at the SA headquarters.

"This important development in the case has made clear that the prime suspect nominated by SA was guilty," SA chief secretary Colonel Yousaf Gulam told UCA News.

SA, a Christian charity, is one of the world´s largest service organizations. Its administrative structure is set up along military lines and its officers use military rather than traditional religious titles.

Colonel Brekke, 50, a Norwegian, was found dead in a pool of blood outside his office minutes after he left William Booth Memorial Hall, where evening prayers had been held. The incident occurred on Sept. 27 at SA headquarters in Lahore, 270 kilometers southeast of Islamabad.

Major Peter Murray, in charge of SA´s management and assets, registered the case against Major Joseph, who had been removed from his position on corruption charges.

Police had arrested him and several other people, but Major Joseph escaped from police custody. Police then kept his family members in custody until he surrendered himself.

According to police officer Malik Iqbal, Major Joseph confessed that he had hired Sohail Javed Masih and Wajahat Masih to kill Colonel Brekke for 100,000 rupees (about US$1,150). Masih is not a name but identifies a male Pakistani as a Christian.

Iqbal said Major Joseph also promised he would get Sohail´s brother, arrested in a dual-murder case, released from jail and compensate the complainants. Iqbal also said Major Joseph had offered money for the marriage of Wajahat´s sister on the condition that Wajahat take part in the killing.

After the murder, Major Joseph helped the assassins hide in a deserted store at the SA headquarters until they could escape through the back gate, the police officer said. Iqbal added that Major Joseph admitted he received corruption money from families alloted land in William Booth Village, a property SA owns in Islamabad. Colonel Brekke later transferred Major Joseph from Islamabad to Lahore.

According to Colonel Yousaf Gulam, the new SA head, the events have badly affected the image of SA officers.

Captain Raja Azeem, 39, editor of SA´s monthly Nara-e-Jang (war cry) agrees. Nonetheless, he said SA completely trusts in the legal process that has produced strong evidence against Major Joseph.

On Oct. 18, about 350 SA members including Colonel Birgitte Brekke, the slain leader´s wife, attended a memorial service in William Booth Memorial Hall. During the service, the SA band played while the people placed bouquets in front of a picture of Colonel Bo Brekke.

William Booth and his wife Catherine founded SA in 1865 in London. It now operates in 111 countries and has thousands of churches and more than 1 million members, according to websites SA maintains around the world. SA in Pakistan counts about 60,000 members.

END

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