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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bumped & UPDATED with Reactions:Benazir Bhutto Reported Dead

[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.

[Update] Fred Thompson's reaction:

Via Fred File:

Fred spoke about Benazir Bhutto’s assassination on Fox News today:

HARRIS FAULKNER: Senator, your reaction, first, to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

FRED THOMPSON: It is a tragedy, of course. It reminds us that things can happen in faraway places of the world that can affect the United States. I think this should be of great concern to us. It is almost a perfect storm in a very bad sense because two forces are operating against each other that are both desirable. One is democracy: they were making progress in that regard in that country. Former prime minister Bhutto was an important part of that process. But the other is stability. Pakistan is a nuclear country, and we cannot afford to let nukes fall into the hands of dangerous Muslim radicals. We are hoping those two things can be balanced out. We can see the continued progress toward a democratic society but also maintain stability in the country, which seems to be very much in doubt right now.

FAULKNER: I know you are running for the White House, so I don’t want to put you in a position to second guess the president. But I’m interested in your opinion. President Bush is due to talk with Pervez Musharraf shortly. What do you anticipate that conversation should be like?

THOMPSON: Those two things that I mention probably would be high on the agenda. What could be done to not impose martial law, to not crack down, but be mindful of the fact that there are radical elements in that country, and perhaps even within the government, that would like to see instability and chaos and see those weapons fall into the wrong hands. This is part of a bigger problem. We need to understand that this is not a criminal investigation any more - so we find the bad guys and bring them to justice - it’s a war.

This proves again the mindset of the radical elements that we are dealing with. We are seeing this all across Northern Africa and various places. We’re seeing it across the Middle East and in parts of Asia including Indonesia and other places. We have to come to terms with that and do the things necessary to prevail. One of the things we need to be talking about is what Musharraf can do, additionally, to crack down on the Taliban. I think they have been insufficient in that respect.

FAULKNER: Taliban also supporters of al Qaeda in that country. Pakistan has been an important ally in the war on terror, so have do you walk that line?

THOMPSON: You just walk it. No one said it has been easy and simple. Pakistan has never been easy or simple. I had a chance a few years ago to talk to Musharraf before things got quite as complex as they are now. But it has always been an important part of the world. They’re next door to India. They’ve had a crisis after crisis with regard to them. They’re next door to Afghanistan, and they’re important to us. They’ve been helpful to us. But we’ re going to have to walk that line between democracy on the one hand and stability on the other. But I think it’s possible.

Needless to say there is a firestorm of buzz on the blogs which you can go through over at memeorandum.

Other news reports from Fox, Wapo and commentary from The Politico, Captain's Quarters, and National Review, just name a small fraction of links.


Killed Bhutto's body flown home

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan (CNN) -- The body of Pakistan's assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was being flown home Friday, as sporadic violence was reported in cities across the country.

Bhutto was killed Thursday leaving an election rally in Rawalpindi. The Interior Ministry said she died from a gun shot wound to the neck, fired by an attacker who then detonated a bomb killing 22 other people.

Angry mobs took to the streets, blocking roads, torching cars and pelting rocks at police, local television footage showed.

Police fired on a crowd, killing two people, in the city of Khairpur in the Sindh province, GEO TV reported. In Peshawar, officers used tear gas and batons to break up a demonstration, the station said.

Authorities called for calm and police asked residents to stay inside.

Many obliged, shuttering shops or rushing home from work, and surrendering the streets to protesters who set fire to banks, shops, gas stations and more, Pakistani media reported.

It's all mayhem everywhere," Shehryar Ahmad, an investment banker in Karachi, told CNN by telephone. "There's absolutely no order of any kind. No army on the streets. No curfew."