Bhutto Aides, Pakistan Officials Feud Over Cause of Death
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RAY SUAREZ: More doubts on the official explanation for the death of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News filed this report yesterday from Islamabad with video exclusive to ITN.
JONATHAN RUGMAN, ITV News Correspondent: It’s late afternoon, and a crowd estimated at a few hundred is swarming around Benazir Bhutto’s car. A clean-shaven man in sunglasses is watching at the fringes. He’s concealing a gun. The man in white behind him is the suspected suicide bomber.
The sniper moves in to within a few feet of Bhutto, who is greeting her supporters. He fires three shots. The last bang is that of the suicide bomber blowing himself up.
Twenty-one people in all were fatally injured here. You can hear their cries of pain and shock.
Look at the shooting again. As the gunman fires at Bhutto, her hair is lifted. Her shawl is also seen to rise, and she falls inside her car.
These images, broadcast for the first time, apparently contradicting the official version of events, which insists that Benazir Bhutto was not shot.
At the spot in Rawalpindi where the former premier was last seen alive, they’ve sprinkled petals in her memory. “Long live Bhutto!” her supporters shouted. “Bhutto is alive! Her killer must pay the price for her blood!”
The government says she was killed after fracturing her head on her car’s sunroof lever, but many here say both pictures and eyewitness testimony make a mockery of the government’s story.
PAKISTANI CITIZEN: I have seen that Benazir was gun shot by a gun. I am 100 percent sure that Benazir was killed by a gun, a gunshot.
JONATHAN RUGMAN: That opinion on the street seemingly borne out by the latest pictures of Thursday’s atrocity. As more such images come to light, they will fuel the anger of protesters both here at the scene of the crime and around the country who feel that they’ve been lied to by the government and there’s been a deliberate cover-up of what amounts to a massive security failure to protect this country’s best-known politician.
A surgeon who treated Bhutto on Thursday night said she was shot twice in the head and the neck. You could hear the shots in this footage and again see the gun.
But by Friday, the hospital mysteriously changed its story, saying no bullet wounds had been found. Instead, a government spokesman insisted she’d hit her head against her car after the bomb exploded.
PAKISTANI GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: Then she was leaving, there were three shots that were fired. You could hear these three shots that were fired. But fortunately enough, none of these shots hit her.
JONATHAN RUGMAN: But look at the car. There’s no sign of blood on the silver-colored sunroof lever. And though the car was damaged, it was bomb-proof. Every other passenger in it survived.
Our pictures show Benazir Bhutto had fallen into the car before the explosion, which suggests she was more likely killed by an assassin’s bullet seconds earlier.
We spoke to a senior Bhutto aide who traveled in the car behind her. She described the government version of events as “ridiculous, dangerous nonsense, a cover-up.”
To the left of the car, we can see three policemen. They’re doing nothing to hold back the crowd.
There’s no doubt Benazir Bhutto made a fatal mistake when she stood through her sunroof, yet her aides claim President Musharraf turned down her request to allow British and American private guards to protect her, though one of the president’s confidantes told me there was no security lapse.
SENATOR TARIQ AZEEM: This was one of her biggest political assets, to be with her own people, to be with them, to be amongst the crowd.
JONATHAN RUGMAN: But you wouldn’t protect the president like that. He wouldn’t have that lack of security. She was the most famous politician in the country.
SENATOR TARIQ AZEEM: Yes, she was different from President Musharraf, I can assure you.
JONATHAN RUGMAN: Officials have rejected calls for an independent foreign inquiry into this assassination, though they’ve offered to exhume Bhutto’s body if the relatives who’ve just buried her request it.