Scotland Yard says suicide bomb blast killed Bhutto, not bullet

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Benazir Bhutto in 2004
Image: Wikipedia user IFaqeer.

British investigators from Scotland Yard have concluded that former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was killed as the result of a suicide bomb blast and not an assassin's bullet. The results of the investigation were handed over to Pakistani government officials in Islamabad.

The findings by Scotland Yard support the Pakistani government's version of how Ms. Bhutto was assassinated after leaving a political rally last December in Rawalpindi. Immediately before she was attacked, Ms. Bhutto was waving to supporters from the roof of her armoured car.

The Scotland Yard detectives concluded that Ms. Bhutto died when the force of a suicide bomb blast rammed her head into the roof of the car. The head of Pakistan's team investigating the assassination, Abdul Majeed, read the findings of the British pathologist who assisted with the investigation.

"The blast caused a violent collision between her head and the escape hatch area of the vehicle causing a severe and fatal head injury," Majeed said.

Television footage of the attack shows a single gunman firing shots toward Ms. Bhutto seconds before the explosion. Investigators determined the person firing the gun was also the suicide bomber.

"All the evidence indicates that one suspect has fired the shot before detonating an improvised explosive device," Majeed said. "At the time of the attack this person was standing close to the rear of Mrs. Bhutto's vehicle."

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf invited Scotland Yard to investigate the cause of Ms. Bhutto's death after some of her supporters charged that the government could be involved in the attack and was covering up circumstances of her assassination.

Officials of Ms. Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party maintain she was shot during the attack. Even after the results of the Scotland Yard investigation were released, party spokeswoman Sherry Rehman insists that an assassin's bullet hit the former prime minister.

"We clearly saw even on footage that she recoiled from a bullet and she fell inside," Rehman said. "The issue really is that this gives us all the more reason to ask for a larger U.N. investigation into what led up to the events of December 27 and to what is behind the hand that pulled the trigger and to who are the financiers, sponsors, organizers and perpetrators of this crime."

The Scotland Yard report notes that despite the lack of a detailed search of the crime scene or an autopsy of Ms. Bhutto's body, sufficient evidence is available for investigators to draw what they are calling reliable conclusions.

Detectives relied on X-rays of Ms. Bhutto's head and a detailed examination of video footage of the attack. The British team only investigated how Ms. Bhutto was killed, not who was behind it.

The Pakistani government says an al-Qaida-linked militant chief based on the border with Afghanistan is responsible for her killing.

At least four people have been arrested in connection with the case, including a 15-year-old boy who told police he was among a five-man suicide squad charged with assassinating the opposition leader.

Ms. Bhutto's death led to widespread rioting and protests and forced a delay of nationwide elections currently scheduled for later this month.

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