Bhutto murdered at campaign rally
Former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated Thursday at a political rally, two months after she returned from eight years of exile to attempt a political comeback, officials said.Al Qaeda's hatred for democracy may have led to the killing. She was a vocal opponent of the religious bigots of al Qaeda. It is also possible, but not likely, that someone in the military might have been responsible for the murder. It is just not the Pakistan military style to engage in high level assassination. The fact that she and another former prime minister who was removed by the military were both living is pretty good evidence that they did not need to kill them to get them out of the way. Pakistan if the home of Islamic religious bigotry and may have more tan Saudi Arabia at this point.
Bhutto was shot at close range as she was leaving the rally in this garrison city south of Islamabad, aides said. Immediately after the shooting, a suicide bomber detonated explosives near Bhutto's car, killing at least 15 other people.
Bhutto was rushed to a hospital with extensive wounds to her torso, her supporters said. Shortly after she arrived at the hospital, an official came out of the building and told a crowd of supporters Bhutto was dead.
Also Thursday, a rooftop sniper opened fire on supporters of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif at a different pre-election rally in Rawalpindi, leaving four dead and at least five injured.
Bhutto's death is a devastating development, coming 12 days before Pakistanis are set to vote in national parliamentary elections already marked by enormous political turmoil. President Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency in November -- a move which he said was to combat terrorism, but which was widely perceived as an effort to stave off legal challenges to his authority. U.S. military officials said last week that the terrorist group al-Qaeda increasingly is focusing its efforts in Pakistan.
Bhutto, who returned to Pakistan in October, had been running for parliament and hoped to become prime minister if her party won enough legislative seats. At her homecoming reception in the port city of Karachi, suicide bombing attacks killed 140 people. Her appearances had drawn large crowds and stringent security checkpoints. At a rally in Peshawar on Wednesday, police stopped a would-be bomber with explosives around his neck. Thursday's rally was relatively sparsely attended, according to those present, apparently because people feared additional attempts at violence.
Information about the attack was sketchy, and in some cases reports were conflicting. One aide to Bhutto said the suicide bomber who struck Thursday was right next to Bhutto's car. The explosions seemed like a targeted assassination attempt, the aide said.
Initial reports said Bhutto was not hurt. But local television stations soon quoted Bhutto's husband as saying she was critically injured and in surgery. A short time later, the crowd of supporters gathered at the hospital. When an official emerged to say she had died, those gathered cried out in grief and rage.
The AP report says she was killed in a human bomb attack. Reuters says she was only injured. These reports will probably be updated soon.
Mark Steyn has this to say about his former neighbor:
Benazir Bhutto's return to Pakistan had a mad recklessness about it which give today's events a horrible inevitability. As I always say when I'm asked about her, she was my next-door neighbor for a while - which affects a kind of intimacy, though in fact I knew her only for sidewalk pleasantries. She was beautiful and charming and sophisticated and smart and modern, and everything we in the west would like a Muslim leader to be - though in practice, as Pakistan's Prime Minister, she was just another grubby wardheeler from one of the world's most corrupt political classes.There is more for Bhutto was all that and more. Michael Ledeen says that al Qaeda has confessed to her murder, or in their words claimed credit.
...It is remarkable that she was feared so much.
President Pervez Musharraf held an emergency meeting in the hours after the death, according to state media.
Police warned citizens to stay home as they expected rioting to break out in city streets in reaction to the death.
Police sources told CNN the bomber, who was riding a motorcycle, blew himself up near Bhutto's vehicle. Watch aftermath of the attack. »
Bhutto was rushed to Rawalpindi General Hospital -- less than two miles from the bombing scene -- where doctors pronounced her dead.
Former Pakistan government spokesman Tariq Azim Khan said while it appeared Bhutto was shot, it was unclear if the bullet wounds to her head and neck were caused by a shooting or if it was shrapnel from the bomb. Watch Benazir Bhutto obituary. »
Update: AKI reports that al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the murder and that the decision to kill her was made by Zawahiri. The al Qaeda statement was made by one of their commanders in Afghanistan. It should be noted that Secretary of Defense Gates has indicated that al Qaeda and the Taliban have been shifting their focus toward Pakistan in recent weeks.
ABC News says the US is checking out the al Qaeda confession.