Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was killed by the impact of a suicide bomber's blast, not by gunshot, according to Scotland Yard detectives. The detectives' report, which was unveiled Friday, largely confirms the initial findings of Pakistani authorities, who have been accused by Ms. Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of covering up evidence.
In an official summary of the Scotland Yard report, Detective John MacBrayne writes that "all the evidence indicates that one suspect has fired the shots before detonating an improvised explosive device," though he notes that access to evidence was limited.
The task of establishing exactly what happened was complicated by the lack of an extended and detailed search of the crime scene, the absence of an autopsy, and the absence of recognised body recovery and victim identification processes. Nevertheless, the evidence that is available is sufficient for reliable conclusions to be drawn. ...
[UK Home Office pathologist Dr Nathaniel Cary] states: "The only tenable cause for the rapidly fatal head injury in this case is that it occurred as the result of impact due to the effects of the bomb blast.
"In my opinion, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto died as a result of a severe head injury sustained as a consequence of the bomb blast and due to head impact somewhere in the escape hatch of the vehicle."
The report adds that x-rays of Bhutto's head, when taken with the accounts of those who washed her body for burial, indicates that she was not shot. In addition, the detectives found no evidence of a second assailant, despite early reports that Bhutto was attacked both by a man with a gun and a suicide bomber. The evidence, the report says, suggests the shooter and the bomber were one in the same.
The BBC writes that "the exact cause of death may help shed light on who was behind the attack. Ms Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) has suggested that if sophisticated weaponry were used it could indicate the involvement of elements of the [Pakistani] security establishment." A lethal impact from the bomb blast would not strengthen the PPP's contention that the Pakistani government was involved.
"The party is still looking at the Scotland Yard report -- however, it is difficult to agree with its findings on the cause of death," Pakistan People's Party spokeswoman Sherry Rehman told AFP.
"We do believe that she was killed by an assassin's bullet," she added.
The findings are certain to be met with widespread skepticism, especially from Mrs. Bhutto's supporters who blame the government for her death, in particular Mr. Musharraf and the leading politician of the party that backs him, Pervez Elahi. They also are unlikely to calm the turmoil in the country now that the 40 days of mourning has ended.
[Bhutto's widower, Asif Ali] Zardari and his party's supporters say they believe she was shot, as do people who were riding with Ms. Bhutto when she died on Dec. 27 after her vehicle came under attack as she left a political rally in Rawalpindi.
The doctors who treated Ms. Bhutto told a member of the hospital board, an eminent lawyer, Athar Minallah, that she had most likely been shot. Ms. Bhutto's brazen killing set off days of violent protests and rioting across Pakistan. To allay public anger and to lend credibility to the investigations into the assassination plot, Mr. Musharraf invited a team of Scotland Yard forensic experts to assist Pakistani investigators in early January.
The campaign ahead of the Feb. 18 polls is entering full swing, and the PPP is gearing up now that mourning period for Bhutto has ended, reports The Christian Science Monitor. The party is planning its first campaign rally Saturday.
The Times of London notes that Britain's reliance on Pakistani cooperation in antiterrorism efforts meant that Scotland Yard was compelled to respond favorably to Musharraf's request.
The request from Islamabad was not an easy one for Sir Ian Blair, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, to refuse. Almost every terrorist attack or plot against Britain in the past five years has had links to Pakistan and the al-Qaeda training camps in its tribal areas. Access to Pakistan and cooperation with its police and intelligence services is essential to Scotland Yard and the relationship can be fragile.
The release of the Scotland Yard report comes just a day after Pakistani authorities announced the arrest of two men suspected to have aided the suicide bomber who killed Bhutto. Dawn newspaper of Pakistan reports that one official said the two men, whom he described as "very important terrorists," were being interrogated by the police. The men are relatives of a man and a 15-year-old arrested in late January in connection with the attack. The teenager, Aitezaz Shah, admitted to being a back-up suicide bomber for the Bhutto attack.