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Pakistani Opposition Leader Benazir Bhutto Assassinated

Opposition leader and former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was killed in a gun and bomb attack on Thursday just moments after addressing supporters at a rally in Rawalpindi. A reporter in Pakistan details the events leading to the assassination and the reaction on the Pakistani streets.

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    Benazir Bhutto began her day in Islamabad meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who had been in Pakistan on an official visit.

  • BENAZIR BHUTTO, Former Pakistani Prime Minister:

    Thank you so much. See you soon.


    Terrorism had topped the agenda for the meeting, and Bhutto told reporters afterward that the two had agreed to work towards ending extremism should she become prime minister after parliamentary elections scheduled for January 8.


    And we, too, believe that it is essential for us, both of our countries, and indeed the larger Muslim world, to work to protect the interests of the Islamic civilization by eliminating extremism and terrorism.


    From Islamabad, Bhutto headed about 10 miles south to Rawalpindi, the city where the Pakistan army has its headquarters. There, she staged a campaign rally in the final days before the election. She told the crowd, "I put my life in danger and came here because I feel this country is in danger."

    Afterwards, Bhutto walked to a white vehicle in her caravan, surrounded by aides, supporters and security. This is the last photograph of Bhutto alive, waving to the crowd from the sunroof of her vehicle. Witnesses reported she was fired on at close range by a gunman. Soon after, a bomb exploded. At least 20 people were killed in the blast.

    Bhutto was rushed to Rawalpindi General Hospital for surgery as crowds thronged the scene. Later, a member of Bhutto's party announced that she had been declared dead by doctors at 6:16 p.m. local time.

    Nawaz Sharif, the leader of another opposition party and also a former prime minister, had to this to say at the hospital.

  • NAWAZ SHARIF, Former Pakistani Prime Minister:

    It is not a sad day. It is the darkest, darkest, gloomiest day in the history of this country. Something unthinkable has happened.


    Sharif had also been the target of violence earlier in the day. At least four people were killed when his supporters clashed with backers of President Pervez Musharraf in Rawalpindi.

    In a phone interview with the BBC, Sharif said President Musharraf's government had not done enough to protect her and later called for his resignation.


    The government should have taken adequate measures and steps to protect Benazir Bhutto. And I think there was a serious lapse in the security that was being provided by the government. I think the government should have really ensured the security and protection of Benazir Bhutto.


    The attacks took place just 12 days after Musharraf lifted a state of emergency in the country, which had been imposed in November. Hours after Bhutto's death was confirmed, Musharraf addressed the country and expressed his condolences to her family.

  • PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, Pakistani President (through translator):

    At this unfortunate incident, in honor of Madam Benazir Bhutto, I am declaring three days of mourning. Our flags will fly at half-mast. This is the work of those terrorists with whom we are engaged in war. I have been saying that the nation faces the greatest threats from these terrorists. Today, after this tragic incident, I want to express my firm resolve. And I also seek solidarity from the nation and cooperation and help. We will not rest until we eliminate these terrorists and root them out.


    Back in Kabul, Afghan President Karzai paid tribute.

    HAMID KARZAI, President of Afghanistan: I have learned with shock that Benazir Bhutto, the daughter of Pakistan and of the Muslim world, has been martyred in an attack of cowardice, of brutality.


    As news of Bhutto's death spread, angry supporters took to the streets of Rawalpindi. Violence also broke out in Lahore and Karachi.

    Some four hours after Bhutto's death, her body was carried from the hospital in a white casket, surrounded again by her supporters.