Thursday, October 18, 2007

At least 110 dead in blasts near Bhutto's convoy in Pakistan

Hat tip:

At least 110 dead in blasts near Bhutto's convoy in Pakistan

KARACHI, Pakistan (CNN) -- Two explosions killed at least 110 people and injured at least 200 Thursday night near a motorcade carrying former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who returned to the country earlier in the day after eight years of self-imposed exile, police sources told CNN.

The chaotic, bloody scene Thursday after two blasts killed at least 110 people in Karachi, Pakistan.

Bhutto and those with her were uninjured, and her companions said she reached her family home safely. Video footage shows her exiting the vehicle after the blasts.

"I can see body parts strewn all over the road," said CNN's Dan Rivers, at the scene. "There are dead bodies everywhere. ... It is a large-scale attack, by the looks of things."

There were conflicting reports on whether there were one or two blasts and whether the bomb was in a car.

Authorities have found what they believe is the body of a suicide bomber, police told Rivers.

"We are still working details, but it seems that there was a suicide bombing there," Tariq Azim Khan, Pakistani information minister, told CNN. "Although the truck that Benazir Bhutto was riding on was surrounded by police cars -- so the suicide bomber could not get onto the truck and could not get anywhere near it, so he blew himself up and that has caused many casualties, mostly among the policemen who were riding beside the truck."

Other officials said at least one bomb apparently had been placed in a car on the street, where Bhutto's supporters had gathered to see her convoy pass. One eyewitness told Rivers he saw a car explode with three people inside.

Video footage from the scene showed the street jammed with emergency vehicles, and injured victims writhing in the middle of the road.

Rivers and his crew were filming the motorcade just before the explosions. They had each noticed there appeared to be little security near the motorcade. That seemed odd, Rivers noted, considering the sizable security risk Bhutto presents. Bhutto's return angered some sectors in Pakistan because she was a female head of state who is perceived as being aligned with the United States.

"We remarked on how lax security was around her," Rivers told Blitzer after the explosions. "We got within touching distance of her vehicle. There was no security around, nobody stopping vehicles getting close to [the motorcade]."

The windshield of the vehicle in which Bhutto was riding was smashed by the blasts, Rivers said, and a vehicle following hers was totally burned out. The scene, he said, was "absolutely horrendous," with blood literally running in streams down the street.

Because the streets were crowded with Bhutto's supporters, who had turned out to greet her, ambulances had difficulty reaching the scene immediately after the blasts. Onlookers resorted to ferrying the injured to hospitals in private cars.

People's Party Leader Qasim Zia, who was riding on Bhutto's truck, told CNN one of his bodyguards was seriously injured.

The blasts confirmed fears of instability linked to Bhutto's return, which came after she reached an agreement with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf allowing her to seek re-election as prime minister. Many were bitterly opposed to that deal.

"This is what everyone feared," Rivers said.

A senior U.S. State Department official in regular contact with Pakistani security forces told CNN that if such a convoy had been in the United States, security officials would have planned safe havens and alternate routes throughout the journey.

However, he said, Pakistani security was unable to do so because of the sheer number of people who turned out.

"We did try to provide the maximum security that was possible and, in fact, that's why the majority of the casualties are among the police and the security forces," Khan told CNN.

Bhutto was provided with bullet-proof vehicles, he said, extra police vehicles and electronic jammers. But "with a very large crowd, obviously, there is no such thing as fool-proof security."

Khan said officials warned Bhutto to delay her return to Pakistan after she made comments about Pakistan working with the United States against terrorism and the Taliban. Bhutto decided not to delay.

"We had all suggested and advised Benazir Bhutto to delay her arrival because there were reports after her comments in Washington; there were reports here in the Pakistani press that some extremist elements were bent on hurting her, because she was seen as coming with an American agenda ... and she had been saying that she might allow Americans to operate from Pakistani soil," he said.

"Those comments were not taken very kindly here, certainly not in the border areas bordering with Afghanistan. And they had issued threats to her life. And she was given friendly advice that she must delay her arrival. But, obviously, she did not pay any attention to that advice," said Khan.

Bhutto told CNN just before returning to her homeland that she was aware of the risks and knew some people wished her harm, but "I'm prepared to take them."

She did, however, tell CNN Wednesday that she wrote Musharraf a letter naming those she feared would make an attempt on her life.

Threats against her, she said, were made by "certain people who have gained a lot through dictatorship. They have presided over the rise of extremism, they have created safe havens in the tribal areas of Pakistan for the Taliban and other militants and they fear my return."

The United States was swift to condemn what it called "terrorist attacks in Karachi during peaceful political demonstrations."

"There is no political cause that can justify the murder of innocent people," State Department spokesman Tom Casey said in a written statement. "Those responsible seek only to foster fear and limit freedom. The United States stands with the people of Pakistan to eliminate terrorist threats, and to build a more open, democratic, and peaceful society."

White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said, "extremists will not be allowed to stop Pakistanis from selecting their representatives through an open and democratic process."

Bhutto had vowed to help return democracy to Pakistan. She ended eight years of self-imposed exile and returned Thursday to her native country, where she was greeted by a massive crowd of supporters.

"I am aware of the threats for my security, and this has been discussed with [President] General Pervez Musharraf," Bhutto told CNN's Syed Mohsin Naqvi Wednesday.

I was afraid something like this might happen. Pakistan is the most dangerous place on Earth right now, and if things go horribly wrong, then it's not inconceivable that some of our terrorist buddies could get their hands on nuclear weapons. We're bogged down in Iraq, and have a lunatic threatening WWIII over Iran, all the while Pakistan - who should be at the top of our concern list - is unraveling.


Constructive Feedback said...

[quote]We're bogged down in Iraq, and have a lunatic threatening WWIII over Iran, all the while Pakistan - who should be at the top of our concern list - is unraveling.[/quote]

Rikyrah - Since you have accounted for the activities of the US troops in the presence of this threat in Pakistan I have a few questions or you

1) Since YOU and others agree that there is a threat in Pakistan....are you prepared to lean on the nations who are NOT in Iraq and never were (France, Germany) and/or on the nations who have pulled out (Spain and increasingly the UK) to sacrifice THEIR troops to fight this common enemy in Pakistan?

Why is it that the USA must lead the way? Remember - "We are not the world's police man".

Also advocate that the US assume this role is to tacitly justify the spending on the Military Industrial Complex in that such expenditures are needed to keep pace with our leadership role.

2) Do you think that the USA and the rest of the coalition should get PERMISSION from the United Nations before launching an offensive upon individuals who reside within the sovereign borders of Pakistan, as the USA FAILED to do with Iraq?

Constructive Feedback said...

I am sorry. One more

3) Just as the actions of American forces are brought forth on the world stage for criticism.......who do you think should ask for POLICY changes among the people who killed 100 innocents with their bomb?

Will there be Congressional review in their home county as a means of understanding how the gap between what their NATION believes is just and the actions that their forces have done to compromise the standard?

Will Rory Kennedy produce a documentary about the human rights violations that have taken place due to this bombing?

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