Details from the Scene of Bhutto's Assassination Washington Post Islamabad Bureau chief Griff Witte recounts Benazir Bhutto's assassination and describes the scene at the hospital where her body was taken after the deadly rally in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, on Thursday.
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Washington Post reporter Griff Witte on All Things Considered

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Details from the Scene of Bhutto's Assassination

Washington Post reporter Griff Witte on All Things Considered

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Coming up, we'll hear about Benazir Bhutto's life in and out of power and talk with one of her political consultants. He'll share the contents of a letter that she wrote to be released if she were killed.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

First, the latest from Pakistan. Washington Post correspondent Griff Witte was at the hospital in Rawalpindi today. And he's been piecing together how today's attack happened.

Mr. GRIFF WITTE (Islamabad Bureau Chief, Washington Post): Benazir Bhutto had just finished speaking at a rally in Rawalpindi, which is the garrison city just a few miles south of the capital of Islamabad. And she was proceeding in a three-car motorcade that was three, bulletproof 4-by-4s that were leaving the park where the rally had taken place. And they had just made their way out of the park when she decided that she wanted to wave goodbye to her supporters as she often does at the end of her rallies.

And she poked her head out of the moonroof of the vehicle she was riding in. And at that point, between three and five gunshots rang out. She slumped back down into her seat at that point. And literally, seconds later, a very powerful suicide bomber detonated himself right next to her vehicle. And it's unclear whether she was actually hit by the bullets or by the shrapnel or both, but it was a very well-coordinated attack.

BLOCK: So it sounds like multiple attackers, then?

Mr. WITTE: It is possible that it was a single individual. But it was, in many ways, similar to the attack that was carried out two months ago when Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan after eight years in exile, where 140 people were killed. And again, in that situation, several shots were fired at her vehicle. And then two suicide bombers followed up the shots.

BLOCK: Griff, you spoke with someone today who was actually in that 4-by-4 with Benazir Bhutto when this attack happened.

Mr. WITTE: That's right. This was Amin Fahim who was a very close aide to Benazir Bhutto. And he said that she had wanted to wave to the crowd. And so she had specifically asked that the moonroof be opened up so that she could wave, and that he heard the shots. And she immediately came back down into the car. And then he felt the thud of the bombing right next to the vehicle. And at that point, she toppled over. And he noticed that she was bleeding profusely from the left side of her face. And she's never regained consciousness after the attack. And it's unclear whether she was still alive when she arrived at the hospital.

BLOCK: And her message at this rally today - she was speaking to thousands of people just a couple of weeks before the scheduled parliamentary elections. What was she saying to them?

Mr. WITTE: She was saying something that she's been saying for weeks now, which is that Pakistan faces a grave threat from extremism. The problem of the Taliban and al-Qaida has grown really out of control, and that the country needs to take strong measures to confront that threat. And she was also talking about the empowerment of Pakistan's poor. She led the Pakistan Peoples Party, which is a center-left party founded by her father who was also killed. He was hanged actually in a prison that was just a couple of miles away from the park where Benazir Bhutto today was slain.

BLOCK: What have you heard about burial plans for Benazir Bhutto?

Mr. WITTE: She will be buried in her ancestral village. This is a place where she had been erecting a tomb for her father and for her brothers, all of whom were killed. And she had visited the tomb for the very first time just weeks ago. And she will now be buried there next to her father.

BLOCK: Griff Witte, thanks very much for talking with us.

Mr. WITTE: Thanks, Melissa.

BLOCK: That's Griff Witte, Islamabad bureau chief for The Washington Post.

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