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Scotland Yard: Bhutto killed by blow to head

Opposition leader thrown by blast

Email|Print| Text size + By Eric Schmitt and Salman Masood
New York Times News Service / February 8, 2008

WASHINGTON - Investigators from Scotland Yard have concluded that Benazir Bhutto, the Pakistani opposition leader, died after hitting her head as she was tossed by the force of a suicide blast, not from an assassin's bullet, officials who have been briefed on the inquiry said yesterday.

The findings support the Pakistani government's explanation of Bhutto's death in December, an account that had been greeted with disbelief by Bhutto's supporters, other Pakistanis and medical specialists.

Also yesterday, the Pakistani government announced the arrest of two more suspects in connection with the assassination plot but gave few other details.

Thousands of Bhutto's supporters gathered in her hometown in southern Pakistan, marking the end of a 40-day mourning period.

It is unclear how the Scotland Yard investigators reached such conclusive findings absent autopsy results or other potentially important evidence that was washed away by cleanup crews in the immediate aftermath of the blast, which also killed more than 20 other people.

The British inquiry also determined that a lone gunman, whose image was captured in numerous photographs at the scene, also caused the explosion, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the report has not been made public.

Pakistani authorities originally said there were two assailants, based partly on photographs splashed across the front pages of the nation's leading newspapers.

Scotland Yard investigators verbally relayed their key findings to the government of President Pervez Musharraf yesterday, according to the officials.

The investigators are expected to present a formal report to the Pakistani government today, as well as to Bhutto's widower, Asif Ali Zardari, who has become co-chairman of her Pakistan Peoples Party, and the couple's 19-year-old son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who is a student in London.

Scotland Yard said through a spokesman in London that it would have no comment on the Bhutto report until after it was made public.

The British team is to present its report today to the inspector general of police, Abdul Majid, who is leading the Pakistani investigation team.

Scotland Yard's report will be presented just days before the country's parliamentary elections on Feb. 18.

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