Pakistani former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has been assassinated in a suicide attack.
December 28, 2007
Ms Bhutto – the first woman PM in an Islamic state – was leaving an election rally in Rawalpindi when a gunman shot her in the neck and set off a bomb.
At least 20 other people died in the attack and several more were injured.
President Pervez Musharraf has urged people to remain calm but angry protests have gripped some cities, with at least 11 deaths reported.
There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attack. Analysts believe Islamist militants to be the most likely group behind it.
Nawaz Sharif, also a former prime minister and a political rival, announced his Muslim League party would boycott the elections.
He called on President Musharraf to resign, saying free and fair elections were not possible under his rule.
The United Nations Security Council held an emergency session and later said it “unanimously condemned” the assassination.
Scene of grief
Ms Bhutto’s coffin was removed from hospital in Rawalpindi and has now arrived by plane in Sukkur in Sindh province for burial in her home town, Larkana.
| Extremist groups have in their sights all those committed to democratic processes in Pakistan
UK foreign secretary
The attack occurred close to an entrance gate of the city park where Ms Bhutto had been speaking.
Police confirmed reports Ms Bhutto had been shot in the neck and chest before the gunman blew himself up.
She died at 1816 (1316 GMT), said Wasif Ali Khan, a member of the PPP who was at hospital.
| It was only a matter of time before the darker forces… carried out this action
Protests erupted in other cities as news of the assassination spread, with reports of 11 deaths in the PPP’s heartland province of Sindh, including four in provincial capital, Karachi.
More than 100 cars were burned in Karachi, while cars and a train were reportedly set on fire in Hyderabad.
In other violence:
Mr Musharraf has announced three days of national mourning. All schools, colleges, universities, banks and government offices will remain closed.
Earlier on Thursday, at least four people were killed ahead of an election rally Mr Sharif had been preparing to attend close to Rawalpindi.
Ms Bhutto’s death has plunged the PPP into confusion and raises questions about whether January elections will go ahead as planned, the BBC’s Barbara Plett in Islamabad says.
The killing was condemned by India, the US, the UK and others.
US President George W Bush telephoned Mr Musharraf for what the White House would only describe as a “brief” conversation on the situation.
Father led Pakistan before being executed in 1979
Spent five years in prison
Served as PM from 1988-1990 and 1993-1996
Sacked twice by president on corruption charges
Formed alliance with rival ex-PM Nawaz Sharif in 2006
Ended self-imposed exile by returning to Pakistan in October
Educated at Harvard and Oxford
He had granted an amnesty that covered the court cases she was facing.
But relations with Mr Musharraf soon broke down.
On the day of her arrival, she had led a motor cavalcade through the city of Karachi.
It was hit by a double suicide attack that left some 130 dead.
Rawalpindi, the nerve centre of Pakistan’s military, is seen as one of the country’s most secure cities.
Many analysts say attacks like those on Thursday show the creeping “Talebanisation” of Pakistan.
Radical Muslims calling for Islamic law, and fiercely opposed to the US, have become increasingly active in Pakistani politics in recent years, analysts say.
THE ASSASSINATION OF BENAZIR BHUTTO
1. Benazir Bhutto had addressed a rally of thousands of supporters in Rawalpindi’s Liaqat Bagh Park
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/12/27 22:28:10 GMT
© BBC MMVII