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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto Reported Dead: UPDATED with Reactions

[Updates below] Reactions & Al-Qaeda tries to take credit for Bhutto's death.

NYT, SkyNews, MSNBC, CNN, ABC, and Washington Post are all reporting that Benazir Bhutto has been assassinated and a deadly suicide bombing attack that has killed at least 20 people.

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan - Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated Thursday in a suicide bombing that also killed at least 20 others at a campaign rally, a party aide and a military official said.

"At 6:16 p.m. she expired," said Wasif Ali Khan, a member of Bhutto's party who was at Rawalpindi General Hospital where she was taken after the attack.

Evidently she was shot in the neck and chest and as she was getting in a car to leave the rally, the initial reports are claiming. Her husband later told media she was in surgery.

Pakistan is already in a state of emergency declared by Musharaff earlier in the year and there had already been an assassination attempts on Bhutto at a rally in October and again yesterday, police stopped a would-be bomber with explosives around his neck.. There is also speculation that this assassination might postpone the parliamentary elections scheduled for January.

According to ABC, early reports were that Bhutto was safe, but reports have now come out that she is dead.

The Washington Post is reporting that at a different rally, a sniper opened fire on supporters of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, leaving four dead and five injured.

MSNBC reports that Musharaff had forced Bhutto to cancel a previous rally, citing security fears and that security at this rally was tight, "hundreds of riot police manning security checkpoints with metal detectors around what was Bhutto's first campaign rally since returning from exile two months ago."

Not tight enough obviously.

The New York Times give a bit of history regarding Benazir Bhutto:

Ms. Bhutto, 54, returned to Pakistan to present herself as the answer to the nation’s troubles: a tribune of democracy in a state that has been under military rule for eight years, and the leader of the country’s largest opposition political party, founded by her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, one of Pakistan’s most flamboyant and democratically inclined prime ministers.

But her record in power, and the dance of veils she has deftly performed since her return -- one moment standing up to General Musharraf, then next seeming to accommodate him, and never quite revealing her actual intentions -- has stirred as much distrust as hope among Pakistanis.

A graduate of Harvard and Oxford, she brought the backing of Washington and London, where she impresses with her political lineage, her considerable charm and her persona as a female Muslim leader.

But with these accomplishments, Ms. Bhutto also brought controversy, and a legacy among Pakistanis as a polarizing figure who during her two turbulent tenures as prime minister, first from 1988 to 1990 and again from 1993 to 1996, often acted imperiously and impulsively.

She faced deep questions about her personal probity in public office, which led to corruption cases against her in Switzerland, Spain and Britain, as well as in Pakistan.

Daily Mail has pictures of Bhutto right before the attack and many photos of the carnage afterwards.

This will do nothing to stabilize Pakistan and will, in fact, destabilize it further as accusations fly and fingers start pointing.

The Pakistan Spectator is reporting clashes between police and supporters:

In Rawalpindi, right in front of Rawalpindi General Hospital where Late Benazir Bhutto died and her dead body is present right now, workers of People's Party are sitting and weeping loudly. In other areas of Rawalpindi like Faizabad, Saddar and Murree Road, angry crowd is burning shops and vehicles and shouting slogans against the terorists.

On Dusht Road, Peshawar, angry crowd has blocked the main road.

All the roads leading to capital Islamabad have been barricaded and blocked and there are reports of collision of police with protesters.

More photos can be found at Getty Images.

Pakistan is a nuclear power which makes this type of instability a very dangerous situation for the international community as a whole. This also could spark a complete civil war in Pakistan.

Photos of the streets on television news shows protests, rioting and they are saying Bush has been informed and more than 40 other people are being reported as injured.

These are just initial numbers from multiple reports and I will update as more news comes out.


Reactions from Presidential Candidates:


"assassination of Benazir Bhutto underscores a need for the U.S. to increase its efforts to combat terrorism."

"Her murderers must be brought to justice, and Pakistan must continue the path back to democracy and the rule of law. "Her death is a reminder that terrorism anywhere _ whether in New York, London, Tel-Aviv or Rawalpindi _ is an enemy of freedom. We must redouble our efforts to win the terrorists' war on us."

Huckabee from his website:

“I am deeply troubled by the news accounts this morning of Pakistani opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination in a suicide attack. This is devastating news for the people of Pakistan, and my prayers go out to them as we follow developments regarding this dire situation.

”The terrible violence surrounding Pakistan’s upcoming election stands in stark contrast to the peaceful transition of power that we embrace in our country through our Constitution. On this sad day, we are reminded that while our democracy has flaws, it stands as a shining beacon of hope for nations and people around the world who seek peace and opportunity through self-government.”

McCain email release:

"I was deeply saddened today to learn about the death of Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto."

"My deepest condolences go out to the family and supporters of this remarkable woman, an individual who paid the ultimate price for her embrace of moderation and rejection of extremism.

"The death of Benazir Bhutto underscores yet again the grave dangers we face in the world today and particularly in countries like Pakistan, where the forces of moderation are arrayed in a fierce battle against those who embrace violent Islamic extremism.

"Given Pakistan's strategic location, the international terrorist groups that operate from its soil, and its nuclear arsenal, the future of that country has deep implications for the security of the United States and its allies. America must stand on the right side of this ongoing struggle.

"In my numerous visits to Pakistan -- to Islamabad, to Peshawar, even to the tribal areas of Waziristan -- I have seen first hand the many challenges that face the political leadership there, challenges so graphically portrayed by today's tragedy. There are, in Pakistan, brave individuals who seek to lead their country away from extremism and instability and into the light of a better day. America, I believe, must do all we can to support them."

Romney email release:

"We are still learning the details of today's tragic events in Pakistan, but this is a stark reminder that America must not only stay on high alert, but remain actively engaged across the globe."

"Pakistan has long been a key part in the war against extremism and radical jihadists. For those who think Iraq is the sole front in the war on terror, one must look no further than what has happened today. America must show its commitment to stand with all moderate forces across the Islamic world and together face the defining challenge of our generation –- the struggle against violent, radical jihadists.

"At this difficult time, our thoughts and prayers go to the family of Benazir Bhutto, and to all the people of Pakistan who are fighting against extremist forces that would commit such heinous acts as the whole world has witnessed today."

From the White House Website, President Bush's reaction:

Laura and I extend our deepest condolences to the family of Benazir Bhutto, to her friends, to her supporters. We send our condolences to the families of the others who were killed in today's violence. And we send our condolences to all the people of Pakistan on this tragic occasion.

The United States strongly condemns this cowardly act by murderous extremists who are trying to undermine Pakistan's democracy. Those who committed this crime must be brought to justice. Mrs. Bhutto served her nation twice as Prime Minister and she knew that her return to Pakistan earlier this year put her life at risk. Yet she refused to allow assassins to dictate the course of her country.

We stand with the people of Pakistan in their struggle against the forces of terror and extremism. We urge them to honor Benazir Bhutto's memory by continuing with the democratic process for which she so bravely gave her life.

One has to wonder what this type of tragedy will mean for our own primaries and caucuses coming up, because it does highlight the need for strength on National Security.

[Update #2] Hat tip to Hot Air for pointing us toward this article reporting that al-Qaeda is tying to lay claim to Bhutto's murder.

A spokesperson for the al-Qaeda terrorist network has claimed responsibility for the death on Thursday of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

“We terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat [the] mujahadeen,” Al-Qaeda’s commander and main spokesperson Mustafa Abu Al-Yazid told Adnkronos International (AKI) in a phone call from an unknown location, speaking in faltering English. Al-Yazid is the main al-Qaeda commander in Afghanistan.

It is believed that the decision to kill Bhutto, who is the leader of the opposition Pakistan People's Party (PPP), was made by al-Qaeda No. 2, the Egyptian doctor, Ayman al-Zawahiri in October.

Death squads were allegedly constituted for the mission and ultimately one cell comprising a defunct Lashkar-i-Jhangvi’s Punjabi volunteer succeeded in killing Bhutto.

Updated with Thompson's reaction and bumped here.