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Pakistan's Bhutto Says She Had Forewarning of Attack


Pakistan's former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto says she had prior warning of an assassination plot against her, but insisted on carrying through with her homecoming on Thursday. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from Islamabad that while no group has claimed responsibility for the suicide attack that killed at least 133 people, Ms. Bhutto named several suspects.

At a packed news conference at her family's home in Karachi, Ms. Bhutto said she learned of several threats against her life before embarking on her homecoming trip.

She said a foreign government, which she did not identify, gave her information that four assassin teams were planning attacks.

"There was one suicide squad from the Taleban elements. One suicide squad from al-Qaida, one suicide squad from Pakistani Taliban and a fourth group from Karachi," she said.

Taleban-linked groups in Pakistan have denied responsibility for the bombing.

Ms. Bhutto said that there were circumstances about the attack that needed to be investigated, particularly why streetlights along her motorcade route were not working, forcing her guards to use floodlights to search the crowd for threats.

"And while I'm not blaming the government for the assassination attacks on me at this stage, nonetheless, we need to have an inquiry as to why the streetlights have been shut (off)," Bhutto said.

Witnesses along her route said security had been tight at the start of Ms. Bhutto's procession from the airport in Karachi following her return to Pakistan after eight years of self-imposed exile. But they said the police cordon around her grew more lax after several hours.

Pakistan Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao said officials had urged Ms. Bhutto not to drive through Karachi because of the difficulty of protecting her during the long exposure to crowds.

He said officials asked her repeatedly to fly by helicopter. He said, because the leadership of her Pakistan People's Party refused to agree to a flight, they bear some responsibility for the attack.

During her news conference, Ms. Bhutto insisted her homecoming was the right course of action.

"Well I know that some people will think it was naïve. But I think it was the right decision," she said, " because, as I said, if you fight for something you believe in, you have to be ready to pay the price. And, the cause I believe in is to save Pakistan by saving democracy and involving the people of Pakistan in the affairs of their nation."

Ms. Bhutto said the attack was not an attack on her, but an attack on democracy.

Local security officials Friday released more details about the attack. They said a bomber wearing a suicide vest packed with ball bearings first threw a grenade as a distraction. He then rushed toward Ms. Bhutto's armored truck to detonate the blast. Ms. Bhutto said her guards, who had formed a human ring around her vehicle bore the brunt of the blast, and 50 of them were killed.

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