Friday, December 28, 2007

Did Military Snipers Kill Bhutto?

As Benazir Bhutto was laid to rest today, confusion still reigns as to who actually arranged the hit.

Eli Lake in the New York Sun reports it may have been military snipers.
American and Pakistani military leaders are seeking to account for what may be renegade commando units from the Pakistani military's special forces in the wake of the assassination of Pakistan's opposition leader and former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto.

The attack yesterday at Rawalpindi bore the hallmarks of a sophisticated military operation. At first, Bhutto's rally was hit by a suicide bomb that turned out to be a decoy. According to press reports and a situation report of the incident relayed to The New York Sun by an American intelligence officer, Bhutto's armored limousine was shot by multiple snipers whose armor-piercing bullets penetrated the vehicle, hitting the former premier five times in the head, chest, and neck. Two of the snipers then detonated themselves shortly after the shooting, according to the situation report, while being pursued by local police.

A separate attack was thwarted at the local hospital where Bhutto possibly would have been revived had she survived the initial shooting. Also attacked yesterday was a rival politician, Nawaz Sharif, another former prime minister who took power after Bhutto lost power in 1996.

A working theory, according to this American source, is that Al Qaeda or affiliated jihadist groups had effectively suborned at least one unit of Pakistan's Special Services Group, the country's equivalent of Britain's elite SAS commandos. This official, however, stressed this was just a theory at this point. Other theories include that the assassins were trained by Qaeda or were from other military services, or the possibility that the assassins were retired Pakistani special forces.

"They just killed the most protected politician in the whole country," this source said. "We really don't know a lot at this point, but the first thing that is happening is we are asking the Pakistani military to account for every black team with special operations capabilities."
Lost in the rapidly developing story was this item I first noted before Bhutto was pronounced dead.
Around 4,000 additional police personnel and commandos have been called for security arrangements after intelligence agencies and the federal government warned of possible terror attacks on Benazir Bhutto.

Extraordinary security arrangements have also been made around the Rawalpindi city, Liaquat Bagh and the Islamabad International Airport. Bunkers and check posts have also been set up at different places in the city and walkthrough gates would be installed at entry points of Liaquat Bagh.

Entry to the public rally premises will only be allowed after complete identification and thorough checking. Police personnel in civvies will also patrol the nearby areas and hotels to guard against any terrorist activity.
Police personnel would also be deputed on rooftops of the nearby buildings. Under the security arrangements, no one, including party activists, will be allowed to come near the vehicle of Benazir Bhutto.
Well, judging by the photos and video shown Thursday, there were plenty of people near Bhutto's vehicle.

Given the security procedures supposedly in place, it further makes sense that perhaps snipers did indeed perform the hit rather than anyone up close.

Meanwhile, Pakistani troops have been ordered to shoot on sight rioters and looters.
As mobs looted and set buildings on fire, paramilitary rangers were given the authority to use live fire to stop rioters from damaging property in southern Pakistan.

Major Asad Ali, the rangers' spokesman, told reporters: "We have orders to shoot at sight."

However, despite fears that the election on 8 January could be put off, the country's caretaker prime minister Muhammad Soomro announced today that the government had no immediate plans to postpone it.
Meanwhile, the death toll in rioting is now up to 19.

UPDATE: Lawhawk tipped me to Captain Ed's item discussing the Eli Lake story, which is also noted by AJ Strata.

There is a lot of wild speculation and many theories floating around and it's virtually impossible to tell for sure what happened, though it does seem clear the military there was long ago infiltrated and that alone presents many dangers as time goes on.

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