The United States has condemned the assassination of Pakistan opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.<!-- IMAGE -->
Mrs. Bhutto was killed along with dozens of others in a suicide attack at a campaign rally in the city of Rawalpindi, just south of the capital city, Islamabad. Mrs. Bhutto had been campaigning for her party in Pakistan's parliamentary elections scheduled for January 8th.
President George W. Bush called the killing a cowardly act by murderous extremists who are trying to undermine Pakistan's democracy:
"Mrs. Bhutto served her nation twice as prime minister and she knew that her return to Pakistan earlier this year put her life at risk. Yet, she refused to allow assassins to dictate the course of her country."
Those who committed this crime," President Bush said, "must be brought to justice".<!-- IMAGE -->
After her murder, some of Mrs. Bhutto's supporters erupted in anger and grief by attacking police and burning tires and election campaign posters in several cities across Pakistan. President Bush called on the Pakistani people to observe the rule of law:
"We stand with the people of Pakistan in their struggle against the forces of terror and extremism. We urge them to honor Benazir Bhutto's memory by continuing with the democratic process for which she so bravely gave her life."
The first woman ever elected to lead a Muslim nation, Mrs. Bhutto well understood the dangers she faced from violent extremists. In an interview with N-B-C News in October, she said she was willing to risk her life for a democratic Pakistan. This is my country," she said. "I've seen what happened to Afghanistan when the Taliban took over. I don't want [the] people of Pakistan to live in fear that some terrorist group is going to come knocking on the door and kill them inside their homes."
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Benazir Bhutto's passing is a great loss for Pakistan. The United States, she said, urges the Pakistani people, political leaders, and civil society to maintain calm and to work together to build a more moderate, peaceful, and democratic future.