ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Benazir Bhutto was the target of threats from virtually all of the militant groups who make Pakistan their home - from Al Qaeda to homegrown terrorists to tribal insurgents on the Afghan border.
Her assassination after a rally in the garrison city of Rawalpindi - where the country's military and intelligence services are based - also focused anger and suspicion on the government of President Pervez Musharraf.
The former prime minister had blamed Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and homegrown militants for a suicide bombing that tore through a procession welcoming her back from exile in October.
But she accused militant "sympathizers" in Musharraf's administration of backing the attempt on her life, and Bhutto's supporters chanted, "Killer, Killer, Musharraf!" outside the hospital where she was pronounced dead yesterday.
Al Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahri decried Bhutto's return in a video message this month and called for attacks on all the candidates in Pakistan's Jan. 8 parliamentary elections, for which Bhutto and her opposition party were campaigning.
Bhutto once said that several Pakistanis arrested in an assassination attempt during her second term in mid-1990s had said they were following Osama bin Laden's orders.
Bhutto, who forcefully pledged to redouble Pakistan's fight against Islamic militancy, was also despised by Taliban-style radicals backed by tribes along the Afghan border.
Baitullah Mehsud, a tribal warlord in the Waziristan region, was quoted in a Pakistani newspaper as saying that he would welcome Bhutto's return from exile with suicide bombers. He later denied that in statements to local television and newspaper reporters.
Bhutto also was labeled an infidel by other groups, such as Jaish-ul Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Hezb-ul Mujahedeen, which were spawned by Pakistan's military and intelligence services to take on neighboring India in the disputed Kashmir region.
The groups later aligned themselves with Al Qaeda and have vowed to battle foreign troops in Afghanistan and wage war against the Pakistani military for its support of the US-led antiterror campaign. Some of their leaders have said Bhutto deserved to die for her threats to crush militants.
"I think by far the most likely [suspect] is the Al Qaeda organization, which has been trying to kill Bhutto for the better part of the decade," said Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former senior director for South Asia on the National Security Council.
"If it's not them, it's certainly one of the groups that are sympathetic with them," Riedel said. "They all work together and share a common antipathy to Bhutto because she's a woman, an advocate of secularism, a supporter of democracy and everything they stand against."
In Washington, FBI and Homeland Security officials sent a bulletin to law enforcement agencies nationwide citing Islamist websites as saying Al Qaeda had claimed responsibility for the attack and that Zawahri had planned it.
Retired army General Hamid Gul, a former head of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence secret service agency, questioned the security arrangements made for Bhutto's rally.
A cordon of police surrounded the park where Bhutto spoke, yet her attacker was able to get to the rear gate, where he shot her as she was leaving and then detonated himself, according to witnesses.
"How could they enter with so much of a police cordon. I am surprised," Gul said in an interview.
Gul also asserted that a suicide bomber couldn't have carried out the attack without being forewarned of Bhutto's movements with a cellphone or other device.
Bhutto had complained after the October assassination attempt in the city of Karachi that devices used to jam cellphone signals had not been working, Gul said.
"Why were the jammers not working? She had been begging the government after the attack in Karachi saying the jammers were faulty then," he said.
Gul said, "I think it is convenient to put the blame on Al Qaeda. But there are other possibilities and they have to be examined," he said, without offering specifics.
In an interview with the Associated Press in November, a former district leader of Hezb-ul Mujahedeen said some members of Pakistan's intelligence establishment resented both the idea of a woman leading a Muslim nation, as well as Bhutto's verbal assault against militant Muslims.