Thursday, December 27, 2007

Suicide Bomber Assassinates Benazir Bhutto; 20+ Dead

**** For most recent coverage, click over to my latest post Pakistan Unbound, which includes the latest on rioting in Karachi, Sharif's demands that Musharraf step down, and the ongoing reaction from around the globe ****

Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated Thursday in a suicide attack that also killed at least 20 others at a campaign rally, aides said.

"The surgeons confirmed that she has been martyred," Bhutto's lawyer Babar Awan said.

A party security adviser said Bhutto was shot in neck and chest as she got into her vehicle to leave the rally in Rawalpindi near the capital Islamabad. A gunman then blew himself up.

"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.

Her supporters at the hospital began chanting "Dog, Musharraf, dog," referring to Pakistan's president Pervez Musharraf.

Some smashed the glass door at the main entrance of the emergency unit, others burst into tears. One man with a flag of Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party tied around his head was beating his chest.
It was a matter of time before the jihadists succeeded in killing Bhutto. It was one of my fears upon her return to Pakistan, and within hours of her arriving back in her country, her convoy came under attack, with more than 100 killed.

This is sure to throw the country in to still more turmoil than it already faces, and makes a difficult situation for Musharraf all the more dangerous.

The situation is going to be confusing for some time as the facts sort themselves out. However, via freetoken at LGF, the Times Online reports that this wasn't the only terrorist attack in Pakistan today. Someone went after the supporters of Nawaz Sharif, the former Prime Minister, as well:
The latest bombing was the second outbreak of political violence in Pakistan today. Earlier, gunmen opened fire on supporters of another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, from an office of the party that supports President Musharraf, killing four Sharif supporters, police said.

Mr Sharif was several kilometres away from the shooting and was on his way to Rawalpindi after attending a rally.

Mr Sharif, who was overthrown by Mr Musharraf in a 1999 coup and allowed back into the country just last month after seven years in exile, blamed supporters of the pro-Musharraf party for the violence.

The shooting occurred near an office of the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League (Q). But a spokesman for the party denied that its workers were involved.

"Somebody from inside the election office opened fire,", said senior police official Shahid Nadeem Baloch.
Others blogging events in Pakistan include Jammie, Instapundit, Hot Air, Pajamas Media.

While some are going to blame Musharraf for the assassination, the smart money would be on Baitullah Mehsud and his thugs. It was his group that was behind the attempt on Bhutto in October. Thanos also is thinking along those lines, and throws in al Qaeda for good measure - both to take advantage of the instability in Pakistan, and to further their goals of finding a safe haven from which to launch operations against the West.

The NY Times is reporting that she was badly injured by gunfire, and further injured by the explosion before dying at the hospital.

Gateway Pundit has much more on the situation.

Al Qaeda is claiming credit for the attack. DAWN has regular updates.

Others weighing in on the developing situation include: Captain Ed, Michelle Malkin, Sister Toldjah, and Don Surber.

Daily Kos and the folks at Huffington Post (via Jammie) keep confusing who the real enemies are. They keep pushing the pablum that events in Pakistan are due to the Bush Administration, ignoring Musharraf's appeasement, the failure to crack down on the Islamists, the failure to enforce Pakistani rule in Warizistan and the NWFP, and the ISI's ongoing assistance to al Qaeda and the Islamists. All this was present before Bush came to office, and it will remain a mess long after Bush is gone and it will not make a difference who the US President is unless they're going to deal with the Islamists harshly and vigorously inside the borders of a nominal ally themselves, while propping up Musharraf or whoever succeeds him.

The Jerusalem Post has video of the attacks, and Getty Images has photos of the scene (not for the faint of heart), including the moment when the bomb detonates.

Panic grips Karachi, and the fear is quite palpable. It's understandable given the extremely volatile nature of the Pakistani political situation, which is precarious in good times.

Wretchard at Belmont Club wonders what died with Bhutto:
Elections have rarely been able in and of themselves to bring about stable democratic rule. Normally things are the other way round. It is the existence of the elements of democracy that have brought elections into existence. Whether those elements now exist in Pakistan is the question. Rogers believed that until Pakistan had an educated citizenry, credible legal culture, a semblance of upright government and a degree of religious tolerance that any electoral process would be founded upon an insubstantial base.

He might have added that meaningful elections can occur only when the armies -- in this case the Pakistani Army and the armed Islamic militants -- are committed to the processes of democracy. When every group under arms within a society is determined to settle the question of power by combat the role for the ballot is small indeed. The next few days will show whether the Pakistani Army -- for it will surely not be the Taliban -- can rededicate itself to electoral democracy. Pakistan needs its George Washington. Unfortunately it only has its Pervez Musharraf.
I have real doubt in whether the Pakistani military can foster electoral democracy, because the ISI surely has no interest in doing so. Musharraf is more than likely to once again impose martial law, which will get all the usual suspects hollering.

US intel agencies are trying to confirm the claims that al Qaeda was behind the attack.
An obscure Italian Web site said Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, al Qaeda's commander in Afghanistan, told its reporter in a phone call, "We terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat [the] mujahedeen."

It said the decision to assassinate Bhutto was made by al Qaeda's No. 2 leader, Ayman al Zawahri in October. Before joining Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, Zawahri was imprisoned in Egypt for his role in the assassination of then-Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

Bhutto had been outspoken in her opposition to al Qaeda and had criticized the government of President Pervez Musharraf for failing to take strong action against the Islamic terrorists.
Al Qaeda had also taken credit for the attack in October that killed 140 at Bhutto's rally.

USA Today has more on the reaction from the US Presidential candidates, but this one from Bill Richardson is particularly striking in its ignorance and stupidity. He thinks now is the time to force Musharraf to step down.
We must use our diplomatic leverage and force the enemies of democracy to yield: President Bush should press Musharraf to step aside, and a broad-based coalition government, consisting of all the democratic parties, should be formed immediately. Until this happens, we should suspend military aid to the Pakistani government. Free and fair elections must also be held as soon as possible.

It is in the interests of the US that there be a democratic Pakistan that relentlessly hunts down terrorists. Musharraf has failed, and his attempts to cling to power are destabilizing his country. He must go."
Earth to Richardson. Who exactly is going to follow Musharraf? The ISI? The military? Some other strongman who may end up even worse, and who al Qaeda and the Islamists will immediately test with still more carnage?

In an unsettled and unpredictable Pakistani political mess, Richardson is pushing for a course of action that makes the situation even more unpredictable and unsettled. I'm no fan of Musharraf, but this is one of the more inane statements on Pakistan of late.

Bill Roggio weighs in with analysis and a recap of the major players who might be behind the attack - the Taliban under Mehsud and al Qaeda.

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