'Large-scale attack' against ex-Prime Minister Bhutto leaves more than 100 dead in Pakistan

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Benazir Bhutto at a 2004 dinner
Photo credit: Sabahat Ashraf

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was the target of a bombing which killed at least 136 people Thursday night, hours after landing at Karachi Airport.

Bhutto's arrival in the country with more than 100 supporters, breaking eight years of self-imposed exile, was met by more than 20,000 police and military troops. Security was tight, after a warning that militants could attempt to assassinate the former leader.

Bhutto is disliked by many traditionalist Pakistanis who consider her rule to have brought the country too close to the United States. Bhutto had told reporters she was "not scared" and was concentrating on her mission, only hours before the attack.

Bhutto, who was traveling from the airport to a rally atop an armoured truck, was unharmed and taken back to her ancestral home of Bilawal House by police and security forces. At least 20 police were killed in the bombing.

Sources indicate there may have been multiple explosions, with a smaller blast preceding the main one, in what CNN's Dan Rivers described as a "large-scale attack". Two other men were taken into custody following the attacks, one carrying a belt of explosives and another carrying a pistol.

Pakistani Minister of Information Tariq Azim Khan has stated that the attack, which injured another 150 people, was believed to be a suicide bombing. Manzur Mughal, a Karachi police officer, reported that a skull believed to belong to one of the bombers had been found, and taken to a forensics lab.

Bhutto was in the country, having been waived of any corruption charges by President Pervez Musharraf last week, to discuss the possibility of a joint government dedicated to fighting extremism in the volatile country. Bhutto had told reporters that she did not want the country associated with the training of terrorists.