Karachi, Oct. 19: Benazir Bhutto today blamed a conspiracy within the government and “secret services” for last night’s twin blasts, which she escaped unhurt thanks to a break for rest inside her armour-plated truck.
The former Prime Minister said she had written to President Pervez Musharraf on Tuesday naming three powerful “individuals” and saying FIRs should be lodged against them if anything happened to her.
She found it suspicious that the streetlights had failed last night and the phones were down, making it difficult to have the lights restored. “Our security guards were having difficulty in identifying the suicide bombers... because we could not see.”
Husband Asif Zardari, speaking from Dubai, directly blamed military spy agency ISI for the blast, which killed 139 people and injured 500 around Benazir’s motorcade.
Benazir didn’t name any agency though her party called for the sacking of the Intelligence Bureau chief, a civilian minister.
But she made a distinction between Musharraf and his men. “I’m not accusing the government but certain individuals who abuse their positions and powers.”
She said a “brotherly” country had given her the phone numbers of suicide squads targeting her.
“There was one suicide squad from the Taliban, one from al Qaida, one from the Pakistani Taliban and a fourth group, I believe, from Karachi.”
But she added that the militants couldn’t attack “from a mountain cave” but needed “logistics, food, weapons and someone to supervise them”.
Benazir had climbed down from the open roof of her truck 10 minutes before the blasts took place 10 to 15 yards away.
She said there were two attackers and her guards found a third man with a pistol and a fourth with a suicide vest. “They (the guards) stood around the truck… they refused to let the second suicide bomber get near.”
The government blamed militants and did DNA tests on the severed head of a young man it said was the lone bomber. Typically, the upward force from a blast blows off the head of an attacker.
“The attacker appears to be 20-21 years old, and (had) 48-hour stubble,” an investigator said.
“The first blast was by hand grenade. The second was the suicide attack,” a police officer said. He added that the bomber, with 15-20kg explosives strapped to his body, hurled the grenade and then “ran into the crowd and blew himself up” 22 seconds later.
The dead include a TV cameraman and 18 policemen, whose vans took the brunt. A dazed-looking Benazir was whisked away to her residence.
Benazir told French magazine Paris Match that former aides of late military ruler Zia-ul Haq were responsible. “Many have been re-hired. We should purge these elements in our secret services.”
She said the next targets would be her houses in Karachi and her hometown of Larkana. “We are prepared to risk our lives… our liberty. But we’re not prepared to surrender this great nation to militants,” she said.
Although militants had threatened to assassinate Benazir, chief suspect and top Pakistani Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud said: “I had nothing to do with it.”
India condemned the “reprehensible” attack and asked Pakistan to help it curb terrorism in the region. “We are relieved that you yourself are unhurt,” high commissioner Satyabrata Pal said in a message to Benazir.
South Africa said its cricket tour would continue.
Musharraf phoned his potential ally and they both “expressed their unflinching resolve to fight… extremism and terrorism”.