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Published: Thursday, 10/18/2007

Bhutto unhurt as 2 blasts nearby kill 126, injure 240


KARACHI, Pakistan Two explosions went off Thursday night near a truck carrying former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on her celebratory return to Pakistan after eight years in exile, killing 126 people and injuring more than 240, an official said. Party workers and police said Bhutto was unhurt.

Associated Press photographer B.K. Bangash at the scene said he saw between 50 and 60 dead or badly injured people. He said some of the bodies were ripped apart.

An initial small explosion was followed by a huge blast just feet from the front of the truck carrying Bhutto during a procession through Karachi. The blast shattered windows in her vehicle and set a police escort vehicle on fire.

Those traveling atop the truck with Bhutto climbed down, with one man jumping off while others used a ladder. Bhutto s lawyer, Sen. Babar Awan, said that the former premier was safe.

Police Chief Azhar Farooqi told Dawn News that Bhutto was rushed from the area under contingency plans.

She was evacuated very safely and is now in Bilawal House, Farooqi said, referring to Bhutto s residence in Karachi.

Ghulam Mohammed Mohtaram, the provincial home secretary, said at least 30 people were killed and more than 100 injured. He said the main force of the blast appeared to be taken by the police vehicle.

Footage from the scene of the blasts showed bodies on the ground, lying motionless, plus a dozen or more injured who were moving. At least one vehicle was burning.

Several motorcycles also lay on their sides. Flames burned in the center of the street after the explosions.

Scores of people, mostly men wearing white robes, fled down the street after the blast.

More than 150,000 jubilant supporters had surrounded the convoy carrying Bhutto amid massive security in Karachi.

Authorities had urged her to travel in Karachi by helicopter to reduce the risk of attack. But Bhutto, hated by radical Islamists because she supports the U.S.-led war on terrorism, brushed off the concerns.

I am not scared. I am thinking of my mission, she had told reporters on the plane. This is a movement for democracy because we are under threat from extremists and militants.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com

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