Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto Has Been Assassinated!

Excerpt from
Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated Thursday, shot in the neck and chest before a homicide bomber blew himself up at a campaign rally. Twenty others also died. The assassin struck just minutes after Bhutto addressed a rally of thousands of supporters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

She was shot as she was entering her car. Her attacker then set off his bomb. Bhutto was rushed to the hospital and taken into emergency surgery. "At 6:16 p.m. she expired," said Wasif Ali Khan, a member of Bhutto's party who was at Rawalpindi General Hospital.

U.S. officials said they were looking into reports of Bhutto's death. "Certainly, we condemn the attack on this rally. It demonstrates that there are still those in Pakistan who want to subvert reconciliation and efforts to advance democracy," said deputy State Department spokesman Tom Casey.

Bhutto's death threw the campaign for the Jan. 8 election into chaos and created fears of mass protests and an eruption of violence across the volatile south Asian nation. The United States has for months been encouraging Musharraf to reach some kind of political accommodation with the opposition, particular Bhutto, who is seen as having a wide base of support here.

Bhutto served twice as Pakistan's prime minister between 1988 and 1996. She had returned to Pakistan from an eight-year exile on Oct. 18. Her homecoming parade in Karachi was also targeted by a suicide attacker, killing more than 140 people. On that occasion she narrowly escaped injury. [ released an excellent overview of Benazir Bhutto after the assassination today.]

The scene of the bombing Thursday was awash in blood. An Associated Press reporter could see body parts and flesh scattered at the back gate of the Liaquat Bagh Park where Bhutto had spoken. He counted about 20 bodies, including police, and could see many other wounded people. Party supporter Chaudry Mohammed Nazir said two gunshots rang out when Bhutto's vehicle pulled into the main street and then there was a huge blast next to her car.

ADDED LINK 16:36 ET: Getty Images Photog, John Moore, took last known photos of opposition leader before death.