A scene of devastation after an explosion at a procession of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in Karachi. AP Photo. Click to view.
Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s triumphant return to Pakistan was shattered by violence just hours after touching down in the country after an eight-year exile. Two bombs struck the convoy carrying Bhutto and senior officials of the Pakistan People’s Party. Over 132 were killed and several hundred wounded during the twin blasts. Bhutto and her aides survived the attack unharmed. South Waziristan Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud had promised to strike at Bhutto upon her return and has lived up to his word.
Bhutto appears to have narrowly escaped the assassination. The Taliban used two bombs, a smaller charge followed by a large bomb. “An initial small explosion was followed by a huge blast just feet from the front of the truck carrying Bhutto during a procession through Karachi,” the Associated Press reported. “The blast shattered windows in her vehicle and set a police escort vehicle on fire.” It is unclear at the moment if this was a suicide bombing or a bomb planted in the road or nearby vehicle. Police said they found the torso of a suicide bomber.
The Taliban was able to successfully detonate two bombs despite tight security on the route. The road was closed long before Bhutto’s procession drove down the route. Police in Sindh province received tips of a potential suicide attack. Over 150,000 supporters gathered along the parade route to welcome Bhutto home.
Bhutto was aware of the Taliban and al Qaeda threats but dismissed them. “At the press conference in Dubai, Ms Bhutto said she did not fear ‘militants and extremists,’ acknowledging that Afghan and Arab militants as well as those of the Red Mosque had threatened her,” Dawn reported. “She said that threats to her life had been whipped up to ‘intimidate me and the people of Pakistan.'”
“I don’t believe that a true Muslim will attack me,” Bhutto said. “I believe Islam forbids suicide bombings.” President Pervez Musharraf had advised Bhutto to delay her return to Pakistan due to security issues.
In early October, Baitullah Mehsud, the powerful Taliban commander in South Waziristan whose troops are holding almost 300 Pakistani soldiers in captivity, threatened to kill Bhutto upon her return.
“My men will welcome Bhutto on her return,” Baitullah told a Senator. “We don’t accept President General Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto because they only protect the US interest and see things through its glasses. They’re only acceptable if they wear the Pakistani glasses.” The Pakistani government has accused Baitullah of orchestrating a suicide campaign throughout Pakistan, yet seeks to renegotiate “peace agreements” that would allow him to remain free and in control of the tribal regions.
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