Breaking News: Benazir Bhutto Assassinated in Suicide Attack

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto died at 6:16PM PST (8:16AM New York) today after suffering fatal wounds from an assassination attempt while leaving Liaquat Park in Rawalpindi.

Bhutto, after completing her address at the party rally and entering a bomb and bulletproof vehicle, reportedly opened the vehicle’s sunroof and shook hands with her supporters through it, exposing the top half of her body. An assassin, perhaps briefly preceded by a suicide blast nearby, fired three to five shots at her; one struck Ms. Bhutto in the head and the other in her neck. The assassin then blew himself up.

Rehman Malik, Bhutto’s chief security adviser and Naheed Khan, a close Bhutto friend are critically injured. Over thirty others have been killed.

Dawn reports in today’s paper (before the blast) that Islamabad (adjacent to Rawalpindi) was under high alert and heightened security due to threats from Baitullah Mehsud. Nusrat Javed of Aaj Television states that the suicide attacker went through three rings of security to reach Ms. Bhutto.

Pakistan’s first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated in Rawalpindi — at the same park– on October 16, 1951. Bhutto’s father was also hung in Rawalpindi in 1979.

Ms. Bhutto joins the list of assassinated family members: her brother Shahnawaz died from poisoning in France in 1985 and her other brother Murtaza was shot to death by police at close range in 1996.

UPDATE – 09:56AM – GEO reports of gunfire and blasts near Bilawal House, the Bhutto home in Karachi.

UPDATE – 10:05AM – An immensely distraught Asif Ali Zardari, husband of the late Benazir Bhutto, just spoke briefly on GEO Television. On his way from Dubai to Karachi, he said, “We will see what has happened. We don’t believe all of what’s been said. We will see then we will believe it.”

UPDATE – 10:38AM – Pervez Musharraf has appealed to the people of Pakistan to cooperate with the security forces to maintain calm as violence grows across the country. The extent of the turmoil is unclear at this point, but GEO is reporting significant violence in Karachi.

UPDATE – 10:45AM – GEO reports that there will be a three days of mourning in Bhutto’s home province of Sindh. Bhutto’s body will be transported from Rawalpindi to Karachi, but it could be temporarily placed at Zardari House in Islamabad.

UPDATE – 10:58AM – Former Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence Hamid Gul states on GEO that the assassination of Benazir Bhutto demonstrates the “failure” of Pervez Musharraf’s government and calls for a “consensus government.”

UPDATE – 11:05AM – GEO has shown the image of the gun believed to have been used to fire upon Bhutto.

UPDATE – 11:21AM – Pervez Musharraf just completed a national address on Pakistan television. He has announced a three day national mourning period. Musharraf attributed the attacks to the terrorists the country is waging a war against and vowed to continue the fight till they are vanquished.

George W. Bush earlier made an address from Crawford, Texas, urging Pakistanis to “honor Benazir Bhutto’s memory by continuing with the democratic process for which she so bravely gave her life.”

UPDATE – 12:50PM – Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has announced that they will boycott the elections.

UPDATE – 1:02PM – Nawaz Sharif is giving a speech now explaining his boycott of the elections, stating that neither free and fair elections nor security can be provided with Musharraf as president.

UPDATE – 1:05PM – The body of Benazir Bhutto is at Chaklala Air Base in Islamabad. It will be transported to Bhutto’s hometown of Larkana, where she will be buried at the family mausoleum in Garhi Khuda Baksh.

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Arif Rafiq, a Washington, DC-based consultant on Middle East and South Asian political and security issues. [About]

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