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Pakistan mourns Bhutto, as Al Qaeda claims responsibility

Slain Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto laid to rest amid supporters' protests and security officials search for her killer.

By / December 28, 2007



BANGKOK, THAILAND

Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was buried Friday in her ancestral hometown, one day after her assassination in Rawalpindi. Ms. Bhutto was shot at a campaign rally for parliamentary elections due Jan 8. President Pervez Musharraf has declared three days of mourning and appealed for calm amid violent protests by Bhutto supporters, many of whom blame Musharraf and the Army for her death. Unrest continued Friday in some cities, as public transport and businesses shut down.

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Bhutto was buried in Naudero, Sindhi province, 350 miles from the southern city of Karachi. Her husband and three children arrived Friday to prepare for the ceremony, and thousands of mourners joined the funeral procession, reports The Times (UK).

The plain wooden coffin carrying her body, her head visible through a glass window but swathed in cloth to cover the bullet wounds in her neck and chest, arrived by ambulance after being flown from Rawalpindi during the night.
Family adherents this morning dug a grave in the marble mausoleum which holds the body of Ms Bhutto's father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, also a popular opposition political leader who met a violent death, as guests gathered for the funeral.
Thousands joined her funeral procession, walking in respectful order behind a white ambulance carrying her coffin, draped in the red, green and black flag of her Pakistan People's Party.

Pakistani security officials have begun trying to identify a man who apparently shot Bhutto at close range just before a deadly bomb ripped through a crowd of political supporters in Rawalpindi, The Guardian reported. In a televised speech, Musharraf blamed the attack on Islamist militants along the border with Afghanistan.

However, authorities said they had yet to identify the attacker. "It is too early to say who may have been responsible," Saud Aziz, the Rawalpindi chief of police, added. A joint task force of police and officials from other law enforcement agencies were investigating, he said.

A spokesman for Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the killing, reports Asia Times Online. Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, described as a top Al Qaeda commander for Afghanistan operations, spoke immediately after Thursday's attack.

"This is our first major victory against those [eg, Bhutto and President Pervez Musharraf] who have been siding with infidels [the West] in a fight against Al Qaeda and declared a war against mujahideen," Mustafa told Asia Times Online by telephone.
He said the death squad consisted of Punjabi associates of the underground anti-Shi'ite militant group Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, operating under Al Qaeda orders.

The Associated Press reports that US intelligence agencies are trying to verify Al Qaeda claims of responsibility. A FBI and Homeland Security bulletin sent Thursday to law enforcement agencies referred to claims posted on Islamist websites, an official told AP.

Director of National Intelligence spokesman Ross Feinstein said his agency was "in no position right now to confirm who may have been responsible."
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