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Suspected Suicide Blasts Aimed at Bhutto Kill 108, Wound 150 in Pakistan

  • VOA News

At least 108 people are now confirmed dead and more than 150 others wounded in two explosions in Karachi, Pakistan aimed at returning former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Authorities say the blasts occurred shortly after midnight on Thursday local time near an armored truck carrying Ms. Bhutto. They ripped through a huge crowd of people cheering her return on Thursday after eight years in self-imposed exile in Dubai and London.

The authorities say Ms. Bhutto was unhurt in the attack and was evacuated safely to a family residence (Bilawal House).

Islamic militants had threatened suicide bomb attacks against Ms. Bhutto, but she had denounced the threats, saying her return was a risk worth taking.

The bombs were set off just a few meters from the vehicle carrying the 54-year-old former prime minister. Moments earlier she had been standing unprotected atop the truck, waving to the crowd, against the advice of her security detail.

In Washington, the US National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe condemned the attack and said the United States mourns "the loss of innocent life" in Karachi.

The NSC spokesman added, "Extremists will not be allowed to stop Pakistanis from selecting their representatives through an open and democratic process."

Ms. Bhutto had landed in Karachi earlier Thursday on what was to be a triumphant return to Pakistan. She wept as she stepped off a plane from Dubai and expressed the hope that she will live up to her supporters' expectations.

President Pervez Musharraf had asked Ms. Bhutto to delay her homecoming until the Supreme Court decides on legal challenges to his recent re-election. The president has introduced an ordinance granting Ms. Bhutto amnesty from charges of corruption, a first step toward a power-sharing deal.

Ms. Bhutto served Pakistan twice as prime minister, but left the country under a cloud of corruption charges in 1999. She is planning to run in parliamentary elections set for early 2008.
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