Suicide Bombers Near Bhutto Kill 126 in Pakistan

An apparent attempt to kill former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has killed at least 126 people.

A suicide bombing in a crowd welcoming former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto killed at least 126 people Thursday night, shattering her celebratory procession through Pakistan’s biggest city after eight years in exile.

Suicide Bombers Near Bhutto Kill 126 in Pakistan The truck of Pakistan former prime minister Benazir Bhutto is parked after an explosion in Karachi, Pakistan on Thursday, Oct 18, 2007. Two explosions went off near the vehicle carrying former Pakistan premier Benazir Bhutto, killing or wounding dozens of people. Party workers and police said Bhutto was unhurt. (AP Photo/B.K.Bangash)

Two explosions went off near a truck carrying Bhutto, but police and officials of her party said she was not injured and was hurried to her house. An Associated Press photo showed a dazed-looking Bhutto being helped away.

Officials at six hospitals in Karachi reported 126 dead and 248 wounded. It was believed to be the deadliest bomb attack in Pakistan’s history.

Bhutto flew home to lead her Pakistan People’s Party in January parliamentary elections, drawing cheers from supporters massed in a sea of the party’s red, green and black flags. The police chief said 150,000 were in the streets, while other onlookers estimated twice that. The throngs reflected Bhutto’s enduring political clout, but she has made enemies of Islamic militants by taking a pro-U.S. line and negotiating a possible political alliance with Pakistan’s military ruler, President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

Suicide Bombers Near Bhutto Kill 126 in Pakistan Pakistan An estimated 20,000 security officers had been deployed to protect Bhutto and her cavalcade of motorized rickshaws, colorful buses, cars and motorcycles. Authorities had urged Bhutto to use a helicopter to reduce the risk of attack amid threats from extremists sympathetic to the Taliban and al-Qaida, but she brushed off the concerns.

“I am not scared. I am thinking of my mission,” she had told reporters on the plane from Dubai. “This is a movement for democracy because we are under threat from extremists and militants.” Last month, Bhutto told CNN she realized she was a target. Islamic militants, she said, “don’t believe in women governing nations, so they will try to plot against me, but these are risks that must be taken. I’m prepared to take them.”

Of course, it’s not only she that’s taking the risk. She’s got a security entourage; the crowds are on their own.

The United States condemned “the violent attack in Pakistan and mourns the loss of innocent life there,” said Gordon Johndroe, foreign affairs spokesman for President Bush. “Extremists will not be allowed to stop Pakistanis from selecting their representatives through an open and democratic process.”

Richard Haass, president of the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, said the attack emphasized that “one of the fundamental realities of Pakistan today is that the government is not in total control of the country.”

Of course, that’s true of any country. While it’s unquestionably more true in Pakistan than here, the lack of successful suicide bombers here has much more to do with our culture than our government and security regime.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. anjin-san says:

    Great. The Taliban, which Bush told us he destroyed years ago (liar, ignoramus, or both?) is now on the march in Pakistan. Bush’s great ally, Musharraf, is clinging to power by a thread. Pakistan has nukes. Cool, we can look forward to a nuclear Taliban.

    But Bush and co are focused like a laser on starting a war in Iran. Must be because the Iraq war has gone so well.

  2. Richard Gardner says:

    anjin,
    I don’t see where it said Taliban (yet, though they will be one of a dozen groups to claim credit). The sad fact is that South Asia has been wracked by ethnic violence (and in South Asia ethnic also usually implies religious differences) since before the partitioning.

    I think you have a major case of US-centrism to assume that the actions of the USA control the ethnic/religious actions around the world. I’ll give you that the perceptions of US influence can be the trigger, but the ammo underneath was simmering for generations, so not if this year, then the next (it isn’t the actual actions, but what the local public perceives).

    Unfortunately, even if you identify the root case for the violence, there is little you can do in a academic sense against it. Maybe a charismatic leader can convince folks, or maybe he is the next Turkmenbashi. And who is in charge of the USA doesn’t matter. The people in this region will still keep blowing each other up. (Moslems, Hindus, Sikhs, etc.)

  3. Anderson says:

    Are we automatically ruling out that this was set up by the government to look like an Islamist attack?

    Assuming of course that the target was Bhutto herself.

    I see in the WaPo that the Pakistanis aren’t all sure:

    Angry members of Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party said the government had been lax in providing protection, with some even suggesting that elements of the government had been complicit.