As the toll from yesterday’s ambush on former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto convoy rises to 132 killed and upwards of 500 wounded, the details of the strike emerge. The attack was a sophisticated, coordinated strike carried out by professional terrorists. Conflicting reports exist, but it is clear at least one suicide bomber, and possibly two, conducted the attack, possibly in conjunction with snipers, a car bomb, and a person throwing a hand grenade.
The target of the attacks was the large truck carrying Bhutto and her senior advisors. Bhutto’s convoy was surrounded by a massive cordon of police and party volunteers. The security arrangement had two rings: an outer cordon of 20,000 police and inner cordon of 5,000 volunteer’s from Bhutto’s political party as well as police.
At least one suicide bomber penetrated the outer cordon and hit the inner ring of security. The suicide bomb came close to hitting Bhutto’s truck. “The blasts hit two police vehicles which were escorting the truck carrying Ms Bhutto. The target was the truck,” senior Karachi police official Azhar Farooqui told Reuters. Witnesses said two dozen police vehicles “were completely shattered.” About 15 to 20 kilograms of explosives were used in the attack.
“There were two blasts, one on the left side and one on the right side of the procession,” Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao said. “It appears these were suicide attacks, but it is not confirmed.” Police later confirmed recovering the severed head, hands and feet of one suicide bomber, along with the torso.
Conflicting reports on the origin of the second blast exist, but there is a strong possibility that all of the modes of attack occurred, based on the sheer scale of the devastation. Karachi’s chief of police said a grenade was hurled at the truck. “First a grenade was thrown at the crowd and then the suicide bomber blew himself up,” he said. Other witnesses said “the second blast originated from a golden-coloured Pajero parked on the road.”
Bhutto herself said there were two suicide bombers involved in the attacks, while there were four suicide squads sent to kill her. “There was one suicide squad from the Taliban elements, one suicide squad from al Qaeda, one suicide squad from Pakistani Taliban and a fourth – a group – I believe from Karachi,” she said. Bhutto also stated street lamps went dark as the procession moved through Karachi at midnight.
The bombings were also coordinated with sniper fire. “After the explosions, Bhutto’s supporters reported hearing gunshots, and there were three indentations in the glass screen of her truck that appeared to have been caused by bullets,” The New York Times reported.
It is clear this was a sophisticated, professional strike planned in advance. “It is a pattern that would suggest the attack was planned meticulously and conducted expertly, certainly not by a novice,” Karachi’s chief of police said.
The assassination attempt against Bhutto bear the hallmark of the past al Qaeda attempts to assassinate President Musharraf. Al Qaeda and the Taliban, who operate hand in hand in Pakistan, are the immediate suspects. In early October, South Waziristan Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, who has strong ties to al Qaeda, threatened to kill Bhutto upon her return. “My men will welcome Bhutto on her return,” Baitullah told a Senator. He later denied being involved in yesterday’s assassination attempt. “I had nothing to do with it,” he told Reuter.
Haji Omar, another Taliban commander from Waziristan, threatened Bhutto’s life. “She has an agreement with America. We will carry out attacks on Benazir Bhutto as we did on General Pervez Musharraf,” Omar told Reuters as Bhutto traveled to Pakistan.
The Taliban recently fought the Pakistani military to a standstill in North Waziristan and has over 300 Pakistani soldiers in captivity after ambushing a convoy traveling through the tribal regions. The Taliban, al Qaeda, and allied Pakistani terror groups are operating 29 terror camps in North and South Waziristan alone, and together they control significant regions in the tribal areas, including Tank, Bajaur, Swat, and Mohmand.
Information in this report compiled from the following sources:
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