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Pakistan's Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto Assassinated

  • VOA News

Pakistan's former prime minister and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on Thursday at a campaign rally just two weeks before parliamentary elections.

Police say a suicide bomber fired gunshots at Ms. Bhutto just moments before blowing himself up, killing at least 20 others.
Ms. Bhutto died shortly after addressing a crowd of supporters in a park near Pakistan's army headquarters in Rawalpindi, outside the capital, Islamabad. She was rushed to a local hospital, but doctors were unable to save her. She was 54 years old.

The Pakistani army was put on red alert as grieving supporters set fires in several cities. Crowds gathered outside the hospital where she died, crying and chanting as news of her death was announced.

Her body is now on its way to Larkana in southern Sindh province. She is to be buried next to her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

In an address to the nation, President Pervez Musharraf blamed terrorists for her assassination. He also announced three days of mourning for Ms. Bhutto and called for calm across Pakistan.

Later, the country's other opposition leader and former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, said his party (the Pakistan Muslim League) will boycott the January eighth elections. He also demanded that President Musharraf resign immediately.

Hours before the attack, VOA spoke with Ms. Bhutto, who had just held talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Pakistan. She said she and President Karzai had agreed they must work together to eliminate terrorism and extremism.

Ms. Bhutto returned to Pakistan in October after eight years in exile. She escaped injury in a double suicide attack during her homecoming procession in Karachi that killed around 140 people.

For months, Ms. Bhutto had been in talks with President Musharraf for a possible power-sharing deal strongly favored by the United States. But talks had stalled, and Ms. Bhutto was campaigning to run in the January eighth elections.

Ms. Bhutto also sought to join forces with Mr. Sharif. Only hours before Ms. Bhutto's death, four people were killed by gunmen who opened fire on a rally of Sharif supporters -- also near Rawalpindi.

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