Devastating overnight news from Pakistan where the popular opposition leader and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in a suicide attack that also claimed the lives of at least 20 supporters at a campaign rally. According to the Associated Press, "The attacker struck just minutes after Bhutto addressed thousands of supporters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, 8 miles south of Islamabad. She was shot in the neck and chest by the attacker, who then blew himself up, said Rehman Malik, Bhutto's security adviser."
"A close aide to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf" tells the New York Times the president "blamed Islamic militants for the assassination." However, across Pakistan, many people do not share that point of view and "angry supporters took to the streets in the northwestern city of as well other areas, chanting slogans against Musharraf" who only recently resigned as the Army's chief of staff and suspended a state of emergency.
Pakistan is an important ally in Washington's so-called war on terror and the Iraq War. Just this week the New York Times published a damning report that quoted Bush Administration officials as saying billions of dollars in American aid to Pakistan have probably been "wasted."
The death of the charismatic 54-year-old charismatic former prime minister is a serious blow to Washington's hopes for stability in the nation and "threw the campaign for the January 8 parliamentary elections into chaos and created fears of mass protests and violence across the nuclear-armed nation."
Just to keep this in perspective: In 1979, Benazir's father, former premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was executed after being overthrown in a military coup. (Bhutto is seen in a picture with her father, above.) In 1988, Bhutto became the first female leader of an Islamic country when she was first elected prime minister at the age of 35. (She was later dismissed amidst widespread corruption charges against her and her husband.) In October 2007, after eight years of exile, there was a massive assassination attempt against Bhutto just hours after returning to Pakistan and at least 120 people were killed. Two of Benazir Bhutto's brothers were also assassinated. There have been at least nine attempts on the life of Pervez Musharaff.
UPDATE: Pakistan's Ambassador to Washington tells CNN he is "90 percent sure" the assassination was conducted by "extremist terrorists."