Al Qaeda claims Benazir Bhutto's murder

Pakistani TV is reporting that Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. Her body has been flown home for burial, a day after she was shot in Rawalpindi by a suicide bomber who then blew himself up.

Less than two weeks before the election in Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto came to the garrison city of Rawalpindi to address thousands of her supporters. As she was leaving the rally, minutes after the speech, an attacker shot at her and then blew himself up, killing more people around.

The 54-year-old died after being taken to hospital.

Within hours of the assassination, statesmen around the world condemned the attack and offered condolences to Bezazir Bhutto's family, the families of the other victims and to Pakistan.

“The United States strongly condemns this cowardly act by murderous extremists who are trying to undermine Pakistan's democracy,” U.S. President George W. Bush said.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin has sent his condolences to Pakistan for the death of Benazir Bhutto, condemning it as an act of terrorism.

The assassination put nuclear-armed Pakistan into shock and threw the campaign for January's election into chaos, sparking a wave of violence across the nation.

Violence has broken out in all parts of the country, with angry Bhutto supporters clashing with the authorities and damaging property. More than 100 cars have been destroyed, as well as bank offices, petrol stations, police stations, ambulances and passenger trains. There are reports 16 people have been killed, including three policemen.

Experts doubt January's election will take place on time.  Some of the country's political figures are already saying they will boycott the polls.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf blamed “terrorists” for the death of the opposition leader and said he would redouble his efforts to fight them.

Nevertheless the incident has already broken beyond the borders of Pakistan, and in to the world markets.

Asian stocks fell on Friday at news of the assassination, and fears over regional political turmoil triggered a flight to less risky assets such as government bonds and gold.

Oil prices have also risen on markets in Europe and the U.S.

RT military analyst Evgeny Khrushchev said “The usual suspects benefit from Bhutto's death – AL Qaeda and the Taliban, plus, which is not a big surprise – General Musharraf himself.”

Meanwhile, there are reports of another blast in Pakistan – reportedly killing three people including an election candidate from the country's ruling party.

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