By SALMAN MASOOD and GRAHAM BOWLEY 12 minutes ago
An attack on a political rally killed the Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto near the capital, Islamabad, Thursday. Witnesses said Ms. Bhutto was fired upon at close range and further injured by the explosion.
The bomber caught the Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto as she exited a campaign rally in Rawalpindi near Islamabad on Dec. 27 ahead of the Jan. 8 election. At least 15 people in the crowd were killed and many injured. She died in emergency surgery in hospital. President Pervez Musharraf is faced with decisions to reinstate emergency and/or cancel the general election as the country faces a violent backlash.
DEBKAfile: Twice prime minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto leaves no apparent heir to lead her Pakistan People’s Party. Her death is a huge setback to hopes of stability in Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan. As an ally against al Qaeda and Muslim radicals, Washington had pressed Musharraf to allow her return from exile, pinning hopes on her strong presence in the post-election Islamabad government for a more determined assault on al Qaeda and the Taliban than Musharraf’s flagging effort.
The Bush administration failed to take into account the number of Benazir’s enemies at home, ranging from al Qaeda and other radical groups to the Pakistan army and SIS intelligence. Her demise is a grave blow to Washington’s plans for a stable de-radicalized Pakistan and a coup for al Qaeda and its fellow extremists.
The former Pakistani prime minister survived a previous dual bombing on her arrival home from eight years in exile in October. No arrests were made. She then accused elements within president Pervez Musharraf’s government of seeking her death. No arrests were made.
At another rally led by another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif was attacked earlier Thursday by gunmen shooting into the crowd. At least four people were killed and 12 wounded. His motorcade was three km away when the shooting occurred.