World

Bhutto vows to go on; won't 'surrender our great nation' to killers

Speaking publicly for the first time since a deadly bomb attack, former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto said she is aware of other plots to kill her but will not be frightened away.

Former Pakistani prime minister talks of a conspiracy in bomb attack

Speaking publicly for the first time since a deadly bomb attack, former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto said she is aware of other plots to kill her but will not be frightened away.

Benazir Bhutto speaks to reporters at her residence in Karachi on Friday, blaming militants for an attempt to kill her and vowing not to "surrender our great nation" to them. ((David Guttenfelder/Associated Press))

"We are prepared to risk our lives and we are prepared to risk our liberty, but we are not prepared to surrender our great nation to the militants who want to disintegrate and factionalize our country," Bhutto said Friday in a news conference at her Karachi residence.

As many as 136 people were killed and 250 injured Thursday night when explosions ripped through a vast crowd welcoming her back from eight years in exile. She was not hurt.

The CBC's Laura Lynch, reporting from Karachi, said Bhutto held the news conference to express sympathy forvictims and their families, but also to raise the possibility of a conspiracy against her, perhaps involving Al Qaeda, the Taliban and Pakistan's own security services.

Bhutto said she was tipped off by a friendly country that four suicide squads were sent to assassinate her.

The carnage was not prevented because the street lights mysteriously failed before the attack, she said. Although her supporters stopped one suicide bomber,two others got through.

"But I know that if the street lights had been on, our guards would have spotted the suicide bombers," she said.

The truck that carried the former Pakistani prime minister is parked after two explosions went off near it Thursday. ((B.K.Bangash/Associated Press))

She said she will not be intimidated, nor will shestop campaigning.

"These armed militants want to destroy Pakistan," she said.

"They want to damage the name of Islam and they want to hurt the political rights of all the Muslims and — in this case in particular — the political and economic and social hopes and aspirations of the people of Pakistan to a democratic order."

The bombings were not the work of true followers of Islam, she added.

"No real Muslim can do it because it is against our religion to kill women, and no real Muslim can do it because it is against our religion to kill innocent people."

The CBC's Michel Cormier,also reporting from Karachi, described the attack's aftermath Friday:

"Workers were sweeping up the debris of the explosion — a huge blast. Everything was black, a lot of traces of smoke and blood, and a few shoes on the street still.

"People are kind of shocked and, I would say, despondent, because there was so much hope about Benazir Bhutto returning to Pakistan and getting the country back to some kind of civil society after years of military rule."

Earlier Thursday, a teary-eyed Bhutto waved to tens of thousands of supporters as she disembarked from her plane. ((Lefteris Pitarakis/Associated Press))

The attack occurred as Bhutto travelled by convoy toward the centre of Karachi. Theconvoy crept through the city for 10 hours, with supporters thronging her armoured truck.

Asmall explosion erupted near the front of the vehicle,quickly followed by a larger blast that destroyed two police vans escorting the procession.

Bhutto's husband, Asif Ali Zardari, said in a television interviewthat he suspected "elements sitting within the government" who would lose out if Bhutto returned to powerof involvement in the attack, the Associated Press reported.

Bhutto, who leads the largest opposition party, the Pakistan Peoples Party, has accused conservatives in the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Q and the security services of secretly supporting religious extremists. But she did not directly accuse the government ofPresident Gen. Pervez Musharraf of involvement in the attack.

Shehas made enemies of Islamic militants by taking a pro-American line and negotiating a possible U.S.-friendly alliance with Musharraf, a longtime political rival.

It remained unclear whether the attack would stiffen the two leaders' resolve to fight militancy together or strain already bad relations between Bhutto and the ruling party.

Musharraf won re-election to the presidency in October in a vote by legislators that is being challenged in the Supreme Court. If he is confirmed for a new five-year presidential term, Musharraf has promised to quit the military and restore civilian rule.

Bhutto plans to contest the parliamentary election due in January, and has ambitions to win a third term as prime minister.

With files from the Associated Press

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