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CNN NEWSROOM

Benazir Bhutto Assassinated

Aired December 27, 2007 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: So there's a lot of audits going on right now, and there are going to be a lot of people questioning is this money well spent, the billions of dollars that are going to Pakistan. But I just want to remind all of our viewers out there that the stakes, as I said, are enormous given the fact this is a Muslim country that already has a nuclear arsenal, and you've got to really deal with the situation gingerly.

A couple weeks ago when I interviewed President Bush over at the White House, I asked him if he had confidence in President Musharraf, and he said absolutely. He has confidence in him and he thinks he's doing the right thing. So it's -- this is not an area where it's simply black and white and, you know, there's the good guys, the bad guys. There are nuances here that have to be finessed very, very carefully.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, appreciate it. Thank you. Understand you're back with us at the half hour as we come up to the top of the hour, 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time.

Wolf Blitzer, anchor and host of "THE SITUATION ROOM." Can't wait for your coverage later today. Wolf, appreciate it. Thank you.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: That breaking news to tell you about out of Pakistan, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto has been assassinated. She died of wounds suffered after an attack at her campaign rally in Rawalpindi.

Bhutto appears to have been shot in the neck, but a former government official tells CNN it is not clear if her wounds were caused by gunshots or bomb shrapnel. A suicide bomber blew himself up near Bhutto's vehicle just as she was leaving the rally. This scene now just moments after the attack. At least 14 other people are confirmed dead in the bombing.

Before the rally, want to bring you some sound we have now of a meeting that former prime minister Benazir Bhutto had with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai. Let's listen for a moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. HAMID KARZAI, AFGHANISTAN: I met with her this morning. I found her to be very, very brave woman with a clear vision for her own country, for Afghanistan, and for (AUDIO GAP). And we in Afghanistan condemn this cowardice and immense brutality in the strongest possible terms. She sacrificed her life (AUDIO GAP) Pakistan and for the sake of this region.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Obviously those comments coming from the president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, after the meeting that he had earlier with the former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, before she was assassinated. Want to take a moment to get to Geo TV now. The Islamabad bureau chief Hamid Mir is standing by with more information.

Hamid, what can you tell us about reaction in Islamabad in particular?

HAMID MIR, ISLAMABAD BUREAU CHIEF, GEO TV: In Islamabad, and the twin city, Rawalpindi, the dead body of Benazir Bhutto is lying in a hospital. A lot of people have come out on the roads. They are now involved in violence, riots.

The people are setting vehicles, government vehicles, on fire. They're attacking government offices, they are throwing stones on the police. And the followers of Benazir Bhutto, they have lost patience and now they are chanting (ph) slogans against Pervez Musharraf.

Many leaders of Benazir Bhutto's party, they are accusing Pervez Musharraf for the assassination of the leader because they are of the view that Benazir Bhutto wrote a letter to Musharraf on October 16th this year, and in that letter she nominated three people, and she tells him these three people are after her life, and those three people are from the government of Pervez Musharraf. So that's why the followers of Benazir Bhutto, they're not accusing al Qaeda or Taliban for this assassination. They are leveling allegations against Musharraf's regime.

COLLINS: I'm sorry, let me make sure that I understand you. If you could just speak a little bit slower for us, Hamid, that would be wonderful.

Are you saying that the people and the violence that you are seeing taking place in Islamabad is directed toward the president of Pakistan and not at possible members of al Qaeda who may have attacked the convoy that she was in?

MIR: Yes. We have spoken to many leaders of the Peoples Party, which was headed Benazir Bhutto. All these leaders, nobody is pointing their finger toward al Qaeda.

Everybody is saying that Benazir Bhutto wrote a letter to Musharraf on October 16th, and she stated clearly that some people within the government of President Pervez Musharraf want to kill her. And they're saying that this letter of Benazir Bhutto dated October 16th will become an SIR (ph) against some people in the government of Musharraf.

COLLINS: All right. We appreciate the comments coming from the Islamabad bureau chief of Geo TV, Hamid Mir.

Hamid, thank you. HARRIS: And right now we want to get you to White House correspondent Ed Henry.

We have been anticipating a statement from the president, and, Ed, for a while we there we thought there would be an audio feed of the statement and then perhaps a written statement. Where do we stand on that?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president has just made a statement to camera. You will see tape in just the next few moments. But I've gotten a readout of what he said.

I heard some of the audio, and basically the headline is the president called this assassination a "cowardly act." He vowed that those responsible must be and will be brought to justice. He also praised former prime minister Bhutto as somebody who he said struggled against forces of terror.

He noted that she knew when she returned to Pakistan recently that her life was at risk, but she still forged ahead and was not scared of the terrorists. He also urged the current Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf, to continue democratic reforms in his country, partially as a way to honor her memory.

He also made clear that the U.S. stands with the people of Pakistan. The president was described as being -- and you'll see this on the tape -- fairly somber. He spoke for just over a minute. He did not take questions from reporters.

Obviously, though, the White House in coming days will be facing a lot of tough questions, specifically about all of the money, the U.S. aid, flowing into Pakistan. There have obviously been allegations that a lot of that money has been wasted, that it has not actually gone to fight the extremists, to fight al Qaeda and others, has not -- that money has not been able to hunt down Osama bin Laden.

But on this day obviously the president focusing on the assassination itself, not on those broader questions. Certainly those questions though will come in coming days -- Tony.

HARRIS: Ed, where did President Bush stand with respect to Benazir Bhutto? Clearly, this is a woman who had been dogged by corruption allegations, who was living in exile in Dubai, in London, and enjoying time in the United States as well. But to be clear about it, the president supported this idea of Benazir Bhutto returning to take part in the democratic process in Pakistan.

HENRY: Certainly the White House wants -- has wanted and still wants that democratic process to move forward on January 8th, the election scheduled in Pakistan. They had been putting some pressure on President Musharraf to lift the state of emergency, which he finally did in recent weeks, but the White House was also being very careful, and the president in particular, in not supporting Bhutto over anyone else, not, you know, trying to get too involved in the Pakistani election. Because at the same time they are talking about democratic reforms, they don't want to be dictating exactly who the Pakistani people should be supporting. But certainly, at least in private, U.S. officials were supportive of Bhutto returning to Pakistan.

She certainly did have...

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS: Hey, Ed, I apologize. We want to get to John McCain, who is making a statement on this -- Heidi.

JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... a decent woman who came back from exile to serve her country knowing full well that she was placing her life at risk. By the way, there have been nine attempts on Musharraf's life, and as we also know, these people who are suicide bombers are the most difficult kind of attackers to repel, whether they be in Iraq, Israel, or Pakistan.

I would be glad to talk to you more about this issue. It's a tense time. America's national security interests are engaged, and we're going to have to devote a lot of effort to make sure that things don't unravel in that country and in the surrounding areas.

With that, I'd like to say thank you for coming this morning. I'm very grateful you are here.

COLLINS: All right. Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain there making some statements in reaction to what has happened in Pakistan.

We will be bringing statements from several of the candidates to you. We've gotten some of them today and haven't put them on the air yet. But now that we have the live coverage of John McCain, of course want to be fair and provide those for you. So we will continue to do that throughout the morning.

Meanwhile, want to get back to CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen, joining us live from Washington, D.C., once again.

Peter, you know, as we continue to look at the situation here, probably important to point out a little bit more of the landscape of Pakistan, if you will. There may be people watching today who really don't understand who would have been responsible for what happened to the former prime minister.

We just did an interview with the Islamabad bureau chief of Geo TV who said there is now quite a bit of blame, according to him, that is being centered on the president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, and not al Qaeda or other extremists.

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I mean -- I mean, I know Hamid Mir quite well, and I admire him, but I think the idea that President Musharraf would be involved in an assassination on Benazir Bhutto is just ludicrous. I mean, the people who have the strongest motive and the desire to do this are the al Qaeda and the Taliban, who have made it very clear that they want to -- you know, to kill Benazir Bhutto. And, you know, they're the people who do suicide attacks.

Now, that is not -- the fact that it happened in Rawalpindi, their military headquarters, to me indicates there might be some low- level military involvement. But that was also true -- you may remember, Heidi, that General Musharraf himself was the subject of two very serious assassination attempts, and those involved low level members of the military. So, you know, that's plausible, but the notion that General Musharraf would be involved in something like this I think is just -- is just ludicrous.

COLLINS: Yes. Just wanted to make sure that we got that out there, because clearly there are going to be a lot of things that are brought up in the coming hours, coming days, possibly, and a lot of different opinions coming out surrounding the events that have taken place in Rawalpindi.

We should also point out, too, shouldn't we, Peter, it's not really that we're looking at supporters of Musharraf versus the supporters of Bhutto. I mean, there are many other fractures, if you will, people and where they are throwing their support in this country.

BERGEN: Well, yes, I mean, like -- you know, like the political scene here, I mean, there are many different factions in Pakistan. I mean, there's the Peoples Party, which is the Pakistani party led by Bhutto, which is the most popular party. There is also a party led by Nawaz Sharif that is somewhat popular.

President Musharraf has his own party, and then there are, of course, Islamist parties. But those parties aren't doing particularly well in polls. I mean, I think the idea that, you know, Pakistan is set for some sort of Islamic takeover by fundamentalists is also ludicrous. I've heard some of that on the air today. But that -- when -- these parties are polling at 3 to 4 percent. They're very vocal, they're very violent, but they don't have very much political, you know, strength in Pakistan.

And, you know, the fact that Benazir Bhutto was the most popular figure in the country sort of speaks for itself. A woman, you know, leading a secular party, herself not necessarily a secular person. I mean, a religious person, but not somebody leading an avowedly religious party. That party and her were the most popular political entities in Pakistan. So the idea that Pakistan is set for some sort of Islamist takeover I think is hyperventilation of the first order.

COLLINS: I wonder, Peter, if you have any reaction, if you heard a little bit of what our Ed Henry was reporting with regard to President Bush's reaction to the events that have happened today, saying that this was a cowardly act and that the perpetrators must be brought to justice.

BERGEN: Well, that raises a very interesting question, Heidi...

COLLINS: It does.

BERGEN: ... because, I mean, would the FBI get involved in this investigation? That's something that is not completely -- yes, we've -- the bureau has people all around the world in embassies. They obviously have investigated criminal events in Pakistan in the past -- for instance, the murder and kidnapping of Danny Pearl in 2002. There was an assassination of a U.S. government official in Karachi outside the consulate there in the last few years.

And, you know, if, indeed, I mean -- is this the sort of thing that General Musharraf might ask for is an interesting question, because I think of course there will be a lot of questions about who is involved. And, you know, one way that Pakistan might be able to say that, you know, bring in some expertise from the FBI to sort of help out here, because this is a tragedy not only for the people of Pakistan, but I think it's a tragedy for people all around the world.

COLLINS: But there will be also, if that does happen, Peter, there will be several others who would object to the FBI getting involved vehemently.

BERGEN: Well, of course that is also true, but the fact is, is that, you know, the FBI is the most skilled investigative agency, arguably, in the world, and has had some expertise in these kinds of things. And I can easily imagine Benazir Bhutto's own family and own party asking for some sort of independent...

COLLINS: Yes.

BERGEN: ... investigation that wasn't necessarily in the hands of the government.

COLLINS: All right.

CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen joining us once again this morning from Washington.

Peter, always appreciate your insight. Thank you.

HARRIS: We have a moment, and we're expecting the statement from the president in just a moment. We're inside the two-minute window.

Once again, the breaking news out of Pakistan that we've been following all morning for you here in the NEWSROOM, former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto has been assassinated. It happened during -- just after she concluded her remarks at a campaign event for her party leading up to parliamentary elections in a couple weeks there in Pakistan.

You're taking a look at what we believe to be some of the very last pictures of the vehicle that she was traveling in, a Toyota Land Cruiser. Our understanding at the moment is that there was an attacker. And maybe there you have the picture of the former prime minister getting into that vehicle. And our understanding is as that vehicle was making its way away from the scene, the attacker approached.

Conflicting reports as to shots being fired, and then -- and then an explosion. The suggestion is, is that the attacker set -- blew himself up. And these are the pictures of the aftermath of that event. And we learned that the former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, had succumbed to injuries. Not sure at this point from gunshot wounds or from shrapnel from the bomb that exploded.

And, again, we're continuing to get reaction in from all over the world. We're anticipating getting word from the huge Pakistani community in London any moment now from our Robin Oakley, who is there. And, again, in just moments we will take you to Crawford, Texas, where we will hear the comments from the president on the news.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Laura and I extend our deepest condolences to the family of Benazir Bhutto, to her friends, to her supporters. We extend our condolences to the families of the others who were killed in today's violence. And we send our condolences to all the people of Pakistan on this tragic occasion.

The United States strongly condemns this cowardly act by murderous extremists who are trying to undermine Pakistan's democracy. Those who committed this crime must be brought to justice.

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.

We stand with the people of Pakistan in the 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: CNN White House correspondent Ed Henry is standing by now with more on this from Crawford, Texas, where the president gave that response.

Ed, before I go to you, I just want to update some of the information that we're getting here. Now we have learned from police sources in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, apparently there are 22 dead in this explosion, suicide bomber in Rawalpindi. The numbers we had first reported at 14. Now that number 22 people dead, aside from the assassination of the former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto.

Ed, as you listen in to what the president said there, very interesting as he talks about continuing the democratic reforms in Pakistan as part of a way to honor Benazir Bhutto's memory.

HENRY: That's right, absolutely. And as you know, the president had been putting pressure in recent weeks and months on President Musharraf in Pakistan to lift the state of emergency, which he finally did do a few weeks ago in advance of those elections and to make sure the elections go forward.

Now, they are scheduled to happen on January 8th. Given the events of today, obviously there will be a lot of people around the world wondering whether there's any impact, whether there's a push back, whether they're affected in any way. And also, obviously, short term, U.S. officials privately are very worried about violence increasing, that this assassination today just sparking ever more violence in the short term leading up to those elections scheduled for January 8th.

But also, in the long term, U.S. officials for some time, even before this assassination, were very concerned about the fate of Pakistan's nuclear weapons and have always been concerned about the possibility of extremists taking over in Pakistan and getting their hands on those nuclear weapons, which would obviously ratchet this up and raise the stakes in a big, big way -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Ed, I don't want you to speculate, but yet I'm going to ask you a question that probably means you might have to. If you are Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, if you are President Bush, when you got this news and when you thought in your mind about what would happen next and what it would mean for U.S. relations in Pakistan, what would you be thinking?

HENRY: Well, certainly they are grappling with that very question, and one of them is immediately, what is the U.S. going to do, obviously? Just this week "The New York Times" ran a series of articles suggesting and reporting that billions of dollars in U.S. aid to Pakistan has not really helped the situation on the ground, has not met its intended goal of decreasing violence, of reining in the extremists, battling al Qaeda and others, and that instead the money has been wasted on other matters, and that the money has not been used to really hunt down Osama bin Laden.

So that's obviously one question going through the White House's mind, is what to do moving forward on U.S. aid. Obviously, they are very unlikely to just pull U.S. aid moving forward, because they don't want to exacerbate the situation. They want to try to help as much as possible.

But in the days ahead, the White House is probably going to be -- have to be even more forceful about figuring out how to make sure that the billions of dollars in U.S. aid flowing to Pakistan is actually used to fight and battle these extremists, because going through the mind of the president and Secretary of State Rice has to be more concern about today's assassination just angering people on the ground even more and causing even more violence -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes. We are talking about a huge, like almost unfathomable amount of money, $10 billion, to the -- as exact as we can be on that figure.

All right. CNN's Ed Henry coming to us live from Crawford, Texas, where the president is.

Thank you, Ed.

HARRIS: And let's get you now as close as we can to the scene. On the phone with us now is a reporter, Moshen Abbas (ph). And he is outside of Benazir Bhutto's home in Karachi.

Moshen (ph), if you would, we are starting to get reports of violence not only in the area where you're reporting from, but also from the capital of Islamabad as well. What can you tell us about what you're seeing on the ground at your location?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, at the present moment you can see a few Bhutto supporters have taken to the streets at this time, and they're absolutely stopping traffic in Karachi and they are actually pelting stones at the cars. About 45 minutes ago you could hear an explosion coming close from Bhutto's Karachi residence, which is (INAUDIBLE) house, and sporadically you have been hearing gunfire throughout the course of the night as well.

HARRIS: What has been the response -- and in just a moment here, just in case you're into your answer right now, we're going to be seeing pictures of President Musharraf on Pakistani television. There he is. We don't have an English translation, or we would dip in to take some of this statement.

But Moshen, if you would, what has been the response of police in that area to what you're describing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, here is the funny thing. This area, there's a police station very close by, but since I have been out here, which has been for a good hour and a half, I have not seen one police officer come to the streets to try to stop these protesters. So it's been very lackluster.

HARRIS: Yes. Any reports of any injuries?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not from this area specifically, no, but throughout the city there are unconfirmed reports that approximately 20 people have died so far. But those are at this time unconfirmed here in Karachi.

HARRIS: OK. As a person who lives in that town, what do you foresee moving forward here? Is this a situation where you can expect or you're expecting to see more events like what you're describing now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, Karachi is somewhat of a stronghold of the PPP, and with Benazir Bhutto's death, you could see her supporters come out and actually be very violent in the next few days, and even to the run-up to the election.

HARRIS: Can you imagine as someone who reports on politics and events in that country, can you see after the events of today, the elections moving forward?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That only time will tell. I can't make a prediction like that about the elections moving forward, but we will have to wait and see what happens.

HARRIS: OK. Anything -- no, go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, go ahead.

HARRIS: All right. Just -- I know I'm probably taking you a bit far afield, but if you would, let me take you back to what you can comment on, and once again give us the view of the scene from where you are right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I'm right opposite a prominent shopping mall which is very close to Ms. Bhutto's Karachi residence. About five to 10 minutes ago, you could see Bhutto supporters take to the streets and actually pelt cars with stones. You can hear guns firing sporadically throughout the course of the night.

So far, all the streets are vacant. This is a very affluent area of Karachi. At this time of night you can see people around, but some of the city is completely dead. That is the best way I can describe it right now.

HARRIS: No, that's fine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In my recent memory, I haven't seen the city like this.

HARRIS: Yes, that's fine.

Moshen Abbas (ph) with us from Karachi, Pakistan. Thank you.

COLLINS: I just want to remind you that President Pervez Musharraf has been speaking. We have some pictures of that. Unfortunately, we don't have the translation for you, but we do know at this time that he has announced a period of three days of mourning.

Just wanted to show you that video coming into us once again. The president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, announcing three days of mourning in the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

Live now to CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr, with more on what this could mean for the military, Barbara, and the obvious contingency plans that we always talk about because of what this could mean for U.S./Pakistan relations, and the war on terror, of course.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I think what it's safe to say is the U.S. military, the U.S. intelligence community, the Bush administration on the whole, all eyes on General Musharraf right now waiting to see what he will do, how his government will react. And, of course, these are the big-picture thoughts you always get out of Washington, but as we go back to those pictures of the violence on the streets of Pakistan tonight, that is how the people of Pakistan feel. And if this violence on the streets continues to spread, that will be a concern for the United States, of course.

Their major issue is to see some stability brought to this situation as rapidly as possible, Heidi. You know, the blunt truth perhaps is neither General Musharraf nor Mrs. Bhutto were an ideal solution from the U.S. point of view.

COLLINS: Right.

STARR: Each of them brought their problems to the table, if you will.

We've talked to a number of high level officials working this situation in the last couple of hours. I think it's important to say at the moment, as far as we can determine, the Bush administration does not know precisely how this attack occurred, whether it was a suicide bomber, whether it was a gunman of some sort.

Pictures of Mrs. Bhutto's vehicle do give indications that vehicle was at least partially armored, and that is something people will be looking at. But what officials are telling us is there are a number of key things as they watch this situation unfold on the streets and we continue to look at these pictures. Some key things the administration has already identified that they will be watching for.

Number one, the elections. Will the January 8th parliamentary elections go forward? How in the next couple of days will that unfold, how these protests will infold, how General Musharraf will work this problem, what actions he may take, what actions he may defer.

U.S. officials tell us nothing is ruled out in their mind about whether this was al Qaeda, al Qaeda sympathizers, or some other extremist groups in Pakistan. And keep in mind they're not mutually exclusive.

As Wolf was saying just a short time ago, the U.S. view has long been that Pakistani security services are infiltrated by al Qaeda and al Qaeda sympathizers. So they will work very hard to determine exactly how this all transpired and what the next steps may be, Heidi.

Getting stability back into Pakistan is vital. The U.S. does not want to see the al Qaeda safe haven grow there. They don't want Pakistan to become more of a place that al Qaeda can plan future attacks -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Certainly not. And Barbara, we should also let our viewers know we have the system in the NEWSROOM called 911 where we hear information coming in just as it happens. And when you talk about who may be responsible for this, President Pervez Musharraf is speaking now. We have been showing some video of that. He did say apparently that extremists are to blame. They are the extremists that Pakistan is battling a war against.

So we will continue to follow that and bring any more information from that speech as well when we talk about the war on terror in particular.

CNN Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Star. Thank you, Barbara.

HARRIS: When we come back, reaction to today's breaking news from the presidential candidates.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: That breaking news from Pakistan now. Former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, has been assassinated. She died of wounds suffered after an attack at her campaign rally in Rawalpindi. Bhutto appears to have been shot in the neck, but a former government official tells CNN it is not clear yet if her wounds were caused by gunshots or bomb shrapnel. A suicide bomber blew himself up near Bhutto's vehicle just as she was leaving a rally. We now know at least 22 other people are confirmed dead in the bombing.

HARRIS: The presidential candidates are reacting. Senator Hillary Clinton responding. She says, "I am profoundly saddened and outraged by the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, a leader of tremendous political and personal courage. I came to know Mrs. Bhutto over many years during her tenure as prime minister and during her years in exile. Mrs. Bhutto's concern for her country and her family propelled her to risk her life on behalf of the Pakistani people.

She returned to Pakistan to fight for democracy, despite threats and previous attempts on her life, and now she has made the ultimate sacrifice for her country and a terrible reminder of the work that remains to bring peace, stability and hope to the regions of the globe too often paralyzed by fear, hatred and violence.

Let us pray that her legacy will be a brighter more hopeful future for the people she loved and the country she served. My family and I extend my condolences and deepest sympathies to the victims and their families and to the people of Pakistan."

COLLINS: Also want to give you the response to all of this news today of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan from another candidate, Barack Obama. He says this, "I am shocked and saddened by the death of Benazir Bhutto in this terrorist atrocity. She was a respected and resilient advocate for the Democratic aspirations of the Pakistani people. We join with them in mourning her loss and stand with them in their quest for democracy and against the terrorists who threaten the common security of the world." Again, United States Senator, Barack Obama.

HARRIS: And this response from Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, "The assassination of Benazir Bhutto is a tragic event for Pakistan and for democracy in Pakistan. Her murderers must be brought to justice and Pakistan must continue the path back to democracy and the rule of law. Her death is a reminder that terrorism anywhere, whether in New York, London, Tel-Aviv or Rawalpindi, is an enemy of freedom. We must redouble our efforts to win the Terrorist's war on us."

And we have some sound from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in New Hampshire.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This points out again the extraordinary reality of global, violent, radical jihadism. We don't know who is responsible for this attack, but there's no question but that the violence that we see throughout the world, is violence which is not limited to Iran-- excuse me Iraq and Afghanistan but it is more global in nature.

And this type of loss of life points out, again, the need for our nation and other civilized nations of the West and of the Muslim world to come together to support moderate Islamic leaders, moderate Islamic people to help them in their effort to reject the violent and the extreme. The world is very much at risk by virtue of these radical, violent extremists, and we must come together in an effort in great haste and with great earnestness to help overcome the threat of the spread of radical violent jihad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Also to British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. Let's listen to his reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORDON BROWN, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: This is a sad day for democracy. It's a tragic hour for Pakistan. My condolences go to the whole of the Bhutto family, including her children, and to all who have lost their lives today. Benazir Bhutto was a woman of immense personal courage and bravery. Knowing, as she did, the threats to her life, the previous attempted assassination, she risked everything in her attempt to win democracy in Pakistan, and she has been assassinated by cowards afraid of democracy.

Benazir Bhutto may have been killed by terrorists, but the terrorists must not be allowed to kill democracy in Pakistan. And, this atrocity strengthens our resolve that terrorists will not win there, here, or anywhere in the world, and we will work with all in the Pakistani community in Britain and elsewhere in the world so that we can have a peaceful and safe and Democratic Pakistan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Strong words from British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, there.

Now we want to take a moment to bring back in CNN's Wolf Blitzer to talk a little bit more about this and what it will mean, Wolf, as we hear from leaders from all over the world and also from some of the presidential candidates in the election here in our country. This will clearly be something that will be talked about for many months to come, particularly how Pakistan plays into the War on Terror and what it means for our presidential candidates.

BLITZER: Because, as you know Heidi and our viewers know, Pakistan is on the front lines right now in the "War on Terror." This is an area in the Western part of Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan where it is widely assumed, widely believed, that Osama bin Laden and his number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, are hiding out together with other Taliban and al Qaeda remnants. They're roaming around there.

They have a lot of support from some of the local tribesmen and there's no doubt that there is some sympathy, some significant support for them elsewhere within the Pakistani military, within the Pakistani intelligence communities, despite all the denials of President Pervez Musharraf.

Now, he's worked closely with the U.S. since 9/11 in dealing with al Qaeda and the Taliban. But there's almost certainly elements there within his own military and intelligence service who don't necessarily share that cooperation and the stakes, clearly, are enormous given the fact that Pakistan is an important country in that part of the world, a Muslim country with a nuclear arsenal. So they -- how this plays out could have really dramatic ramifications for all of us here and indeed around the world who are concerned about the War on Terror.

COLLINS: And when they don't share the same idea, the same end result, obviously that is a huge problem we're talking about trying to have success in working with this country and fighting that "War on Terror." What does the United States do? What do they start talking about today, on this very day, in order to continue down that line of trying to reach success on the War on Terror?

BLITZER: There's going to be a huge investigation, not only by Pakistani authorities, I assume, but by people all over the world who are deeply concerned about what happened to Benazir Bhutto and these others who were killed today. Who was responsible? Was this a rogue element in the Pakistani military or within the Pakistani intelligence service? Was this al Qaeda related? Was it Taliban related? Who killed Benazir Bhutto?

We know that they tried to kill her when she first landed back in Pakistan in Karachi only a matter of weeks ago. More than 100 people were killed in that attack. She survived that assassination attempt when her motorcade was moving slowly into Karachi from the airport. But who knows who is responsible for this one. To a certain degree, Heidi, it was all very, very predictable given the elements who hated her. And I spoke to her just before she left the United States ...

COLLINS: Hey Wolf, pardon my interruption. I apologize. But we are getting information coming in from the Pakistani embassy. Let's go live to that right now.

MAHMUD ALI DURRANI, PAKISTANI AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: ...I live in, (INAUDIBLE), which is about a mile away from where I live, I have seen he her address a rally there many, many years back. And we are very sorry, and this is a time of mourning for Pakistan, and I think the government of Pakistan has already announced a three-day mourning.

I spoke to the president of Pakistan this morning before he went into his meeting, and he also expressed his shock and condemnation, and he says we strongly condemn this terrorist attack. This has been done by terrorists, and this should firm up Pakistan's resolve to fight extremism and terrorism and we will, God willing, keep democracy going in Pakistan. Thank you.

QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, what about an investigation? Did Musharraf talk about that?

DURRANI: I haven't heard his interview myself. I have been on the move, as you can understand, but I'm sure there will be an investigation. Absolutely.

QUESTION: Who do you think could be responsible at the moment? Do you have any (INAUDIBLE) ...

DURRANI: We have no solid information, but I am almost 90 percent sure that it is the extremists terrorists who have been hitting other innocent people that (INAUDIBLE).

QUESTION: Will we be hearing from President Musharraf today? Will he make a statement?

DURRANI: I think he's already made a statement, if I'm not wrong.

QUESTION: And has he had any phone conversation with President Bush?

DURRANI: I think President Bush will be calling him shortly. The other world leaders have been calling him.

QUESTION: Can you tell me who he has spoken to?

DURRANI: I think he's spoken to the British prime minister. I have been on the move, so I will not be up to date on that.

QUESTION: Do you expect that the elections continue as scheduled?

DURRANI: Sorry.

QUESTION: Will the election process continue?

DURRANI: To the best of my knowledge, it will continue. This depends a lot on the opposition leadership in Pakistan.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE)

DURRANI: Excuse me?

QUESTION: Do Pakistanis have hope for democracy?

DURRANI: Absolutely, Pakistanis have hope for democracy because Musharraf is committed. He said he had three phases for democracy. First time when he was chief executive or more or less military ruler. Then, he as a military president with a parliament, and now his hope is that he is as a civilian president and a full-fledged democracy.

So, I think Pakistan needs by and large one democracy and I think this is what we'll get.

QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, you said before that you think that this is the work of terrorists. Keep in mind that (INAUDIBLE) four years ago (INAUDIBLE) 9/11 attacks. How confident are you that those who are trying to promote democracy in Pakistan are going to be able to do so without putting their lives and their families' lives at risk?

DURRANI: Basically, I think the question you asked is -- I think one, the simple answer that I have is that the overwhelming majority of Pakistanis are liberal, and they want Democratic dispensation, and I think irrespective of the threat to their lives, they are going to stick with democracy, and I think that should, in the long run, democracy will flourish in Pakistan.

QUESTION: What is Madam Bhutto's legacy?

DURRANI: I think I'll just talking to somebody else, I think her legacy as I see it, there may be other views, I think it is a liberal democracy, a moderate Pakistan, a progressive Pakistan.

QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, does the government of Pakistan have any responsibility for not protecting her as well as perhaps you should have been?

DURRANI: Well, I personally don't think so because the government has done its best, but this was a large, large rally. It was in a big -- what we call (INAUDIBLE), it's a big rallying area. There have been political rallies before, and I recollect many, many years back, one of our political leaders was also assassinated here.

She is addressed the rally (ph). This is a big place, and there are masses of people moving around. So in those circumstances, I think the world's best security can have limitations.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE)

DURRANI: Excuse me?

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE)

DURRANI: Yes, I did. I knew her because I was in government, and I knew her then, and I had the pleasure of meeting her more recently when she visited Washington. We had dinner together.

QUESTION: Was there any kind of formal state funeral? Could you give us a sense of how long that will be (ph)?

DURRANI: I don't know the protocol of that -- when do you have a state funeral and when you don't. But as I said, the government has already declared a three days mourning, and I think that is equivalent to any state funeral in my judgment.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) the American people who might be worrying about the (INAUDIBLE)?

DURRANI: Yes, I would like to assure the American public that Pakistan has gone through many crises before. It's gone through wars. It's gone through assassination attempts. It's gone through, you know, natural calamities, and our people are resilient, tough, and I think, God willing, we will come out of this crisis too with flying colors. This will only improve the Pakistani resolve to fight extremism and terrorism.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE)

DURRANI: I'm not sure because I have not been in the office, so I have not been following who all have called him. I'm sure he would have. He'd just seen her (ph).

Thank you very much. Thank you.

COLLINS: All right, there you have the statement live out of Washington, D.C., and the Mahmud Ali Durrani, the Pakistani ambassador saying that the hope for democracy in the country after the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto is still strong.

When asked questions about whether or not the administration of Pervez Musharraf should hold any responsibility for not being able to protect her, he said, no, this was a very large rally, and the security forces did the best that they could.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer has been standing by, and I know you listened in to all of that, Wolf. And it just sort of brings to mind the overall question of what this day means for the people of Pakistan.

BLITZER: Well, it certainly means for those who liked Benazir Bhutto and she was popular with a lot of Pakistanis, it means that they've lost a leader, someone that they would have wanted to see elected the prime minister on the elections that are scheduled for January 8th.

And this does represent a really serious setback in that whole movement to try to stabilize the country and to move the democracy forward in the aftermath of the state of national emergency.

You know, Heidi, it was chilling to look back and remember what she told me just before leaving to go back to Pakistan. I'm going to play a little clip of what she said when she was in "THE SITUATION ROOM" at the end of September.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You're a relatively young woman. How scared are you though because, as you know, Osama bin Laden and other terrorists, they've attacked you in the past and they clearly would like to go after you now.

BENAZIR BHUTTO, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF PAKISTAN: Yes, of course they would like to go against me. There's a lot at threat because under military dictatorship, an anarchic situation has developed which the terrorists and Osama have exploited. They don't want democracy. They don't want me back.

BLITZER: They don't want a woman to be the prime minister of Pakistan either.

BHUTTO: And they don't believe in women governing nations, so they will try to plot against me, but these are risks that must be taken. I'm prepared to take them.

BLITZER: Your family has a history, unfortunately, a tragic history, of assassinations.

BHUTTO: I know the past has been tragic, but I'm an optimist by nature. I put my faith in the people of Pakistan. I put my faith in God. I feel that what I am doing is for a good cause, for a right cause, to save Pakistan from extremists and militants and to build regional security. I know the dangers are there, but I'm prepared to take those risks.

My father was killed. It was a very terrible moment in my life, but I also learned from him that one has to stand up for the principles they believe in. And I'm standing up for the principle of democracy. I'm standing up for moderation, and I'm standing up for hope for all the people in Pakistan who today are poor and miserable and really quite desperate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: She survived the first assassination attempt upon her return. She didn't survive this one.

Joining us now, Walter Rodgers. He's on the phone. Walter, a former CNN correspondent, you've spent a lot of time covering Pakistan over the years, Walter. What do you think?

VOICE OF WALTER RODGERS, FORMER CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think this country is in a state of shock, Wolf. First, there was shock, then there was anger, and then there was this mental climate of frenzy as people took to the streets in all the major cities, but here in Lahore, where I am, they were burning cars, and their anger was directed at the most visible symbols of authority.

They went out and they tore down all the campaign posters of Mr. Musharraf's party, the PML party, and they went out and tore all those down. Then, they started burning automobiles, anything that smacked of being a symbol of the current government of President Musharraf, they went out and struck at.

That's not to suggest for a second that Musharraf was behind the assassination, but the anger was so irrational, they just lashed out across the country.

BLITZER: And in Lahore where you are, which is a relatively peaceful city that doesn't have a whole lot of history of this kind of political violence or terrorism, give us a little bit more flavor of the shock that you're feeling, the people of Pakistan, Walter, are feeling?

RODGERS: Well, I was with friends this evening, and one of them received a phone call, and it, of course, announced that Benazir Bhutto had been assassinated, and the first reaction was what you hear in any assassination attempt. They ask the question why. I think what you have to realize is how very disheartening this was. As you were saying a few moments ago, Wolf, this upcoming election, January 8th, may have been the last best chance that Pakistan had towards nudging itself towards democracy. Now, there doesn't appear to be anyone present who will chart that course.

Now, what happened is Mrs. Bhutto was -- or Miss Bhutto was trying desperately to get herself elected prime minister so that she could reign in the extremists, reign in the religious extremists and what she called the terrorists, and she had just spoken at a rally in Rawalpindi where she lashed out at these people.

When she left that rally, was going to her automobile, and someone came up on a bicycle or a motor bike, rammed it. There was an explosion. The news sources here in Pakistan are saying she died of a bullet in the neck, but we don't know if there was really a bullet or it could have been a steel ball bearing in a suicide bomber's belt.

But in any event, this country is now -- I don't want to say rudderless, but it is hastening along a road of great uncertainty and more than a few commentators will start talking about the disassembling of this country, its slide into chaos -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And the stakes, Walter, as a result of that would be really, really unbelievable, enormous given the fact that this is an important regional power, an important Muslim country with a nuclear arsenal in place right now. Why didn't she have better security? There was already one assassination attempt upon her return to Karachi after eight years in exile. More than 100 people were killed then, hundreds of others were wounded.

She appealed to President Musharraf for better security, but really it was sort of haphazard based on everything that I was seeing -- based on everything I hearing knowing what a target she would be for various elements out there given the history of political assassinations.

As you know, Walter, there have been several attempts unsuccessful against the president Pervez Musharraf himself. Why didn't she get better security?

RODGERS: Well, she had good security inside the PPP, that is the Pakistan People's Party rally in Rawalpindi. There was good security and no one is questioning it there. It was when she left the area in which she had been speaking, and had just gotten into her car on the street outside. No security is foolproof, as demonstrated again this evening here in Pakistan.

But this is a country where organized chaos tends to be the rule and a perfect security blanket just doesn't exist, and it exists even less so here. As you pointed out there have been at least five assassination attempts against President Musharraf.

There was a terrible suicide bombing in a mosque in the northwest frontier province, I believe it was Peshawar about a week ago, and 57 people were killed there, and whoever the perpetrators were were trying to kill one of Musharraf's government ministers, and it's the second time they've tried to kill him and failed.

This is a country which really is in sort of a pre-revolutionary state and a slow, perhaps hastening slide into chaos and darkness. It really has signs of coming unglued. You see this, what Pakistanis call creeping Talibanization of their country, and it's very, very disturbing to people who would like to see something resembling democracy or at the very least stability. Wolf?

BLITZER: But you're seeing on the streets of Lahore in Pakistan where you are right now a lot of nervousness, a lot of people very angry as a result of this assassination, and the question to you, Walter is what happens next? It's obviously a very uncertain situation that is developing.

RODGERS: Well, there are two things I want to bring out. When you talk about nervousness, as soon as my friends here in Lahore heard about this, everyone said we've got to get home, we've got to get back to our families, we've got to close the doors and get off the streets because they anticipated agitation.

I suspect it's even worse -- I'm in the Punjab province now. It's even worse in Sindh. Having said that -- Sindh is of course, where Benazir Bhutto was from. Having said that, when you ask the what next question, the answer is no one knows. But people here do not believe the elections will now go ahead January 8th.

They are guessing, there's been no official announcement on this, but the presumption is amongst the educated classes with whom I have been speaking that, in fact, the January 8th election will be postponed. For one thing, what is Benazir Bhutto's party going to do for a candidate? If anyone had a chance of capturing the prime minister's job out and out it was the Pakistan people's party.

They don't have a candidate anymore. So there's a political vacuum there. Then you have to ask, well, who is left? Well, Nawaz Sharif can't run. He has legal problems, and he would have been another opposition leader who had a chance of getting in.

But the political process, whether the election is postponed or not, the political process here is paralyzed, and that leaves, if you will, the last man standing, Pervaiz Elahi who is the PMLP candidate for prime minister and that's Mr. Musharraf's party. But again, no one knows how this will shake out at this point.

BLITZER: We'll be watching, Walter, to see if President Musharraf reinstates that state of national emergency which he lifted only on December 15th, and whether or not the January 8th scheduled elections go forward, if they're free and fair, if, in fact, they take place.

A lot of uncertainty, especially during these three days of official mourning in Pakistan that we heard the Pakistani ambassador say was about to begin. Walter Rodgers our former CNN Senior International Correspondent in Lahore, Pakistan for us. Walter, thank you, thank you very much. Let's go back to Heidi and Tony. This is really an awful situation with really, really serious ramifications for people, not only in Pakistan or for the region, but around the world, Heidi, and we have to watch it very closely.

COLLINS: Yes, there's no question about that, and certainly we will be doing just that right here on CNN throughout the day. Wolf, we will be watching for your show coming up later today, "THE SITUATION ROOM." Appreciate it, thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

HARRIS: A growing reaction online as word spreads of the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Isha Sesay is live at the international desk. And Isha, I also know that you were monitoring the comments from Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf a short time ago.

ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Tony. So much news coming into us here at CNN. Let's pull together the key talking points for our viewers. Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf made his first public comments since the assassination of Benazir Bhutto a short time ago. He said the killers are the same extremists Pakistan has been battling, and he will not rest until they are tracked down.

He also appealed for calm and announced three days of mourning for the former Prime Minister Bhutto. OK. As news of Bhutto's death spreads, Tony, angry scenes are playing out against various parts of the country. In Karachi, according to local media, we're hearing that six people have lost their lives in violence. That's according to local media there on the ground.

We're also hearing that angry mob scenes of burning tires and traffic jams on the roads there. Also reports of angry mobs in Rawalpindi. We know there, of course, according to police sources, that 22 other people were also killed in that attack that claimed Benazir Bhutto's life earlier on Thursday. And, there are reports of extreme tension in Islamabad and in Lahore.

In fact, I spoke with an i-Reporter who we've been in touch with here on the international desk. He sent us images back in November of the process in Pakistan. I asked him what he was seeing, what he was hearing. He heard the news while he was at university. He went straight home. On the way home he said there were traffic jams, absolute gridlock on the streets of Lahore.

He also saw posters belonging to Musharraf's party, (INAUDIBLE) were torn down, on the ground. But he went home and his feeling is this is an extremely critical time for Pakistan. Tony, we're also monitoring what's happening online, what people are saying about this assassination. Ashon (ph) describes on fiverupees.com, the reports of shop closings and violence as well as what he has seen.

He said "I, myself, saw an increased security presence in Karachi a few minutes after her death was confirmed, including a helicopter and some police cars and checkpoints." DawnNews is reporting that the government is asking people to stay indoors. Tony, this is a massive, massive news story.

Many people especially concerned about what happens next for Pakistan. We're monitoring all the news outlets, and we'll keep checking in with you from the international desk.

HARRIS: Isha, let's take a moment because on a story like this, I mean, you know, we really do have unparalleled resources in covering this story. If you would, just sort of turn behind you and give folks a bit of a view of the resources and the folks who are working on this story, monitoring feeds from all over the world right now.

SESAY: Absolutely. We have a team, a battalion of people all working this story. Monitoring all the news outlets. We have Pakistan TV. We have Geo TV. We're monitoring the blog sites. People are making shout downs to other parts of CNN to convey that information we've just found out from the ground.

People working the phones, Tony. You see the board there, one of our computer screens that's basically monitoring all the images that are coming into us from Pakistan. As soon as we get fresh developments, we're bringing them to you straight from the international desk. Tony, everybody is working at full capacity.

HARRIS: With members of the team over there who speak the language and were able to sort of monitor the press conference, the statement from President Musharraf and turn that around.

SESAY: Absolutely. We have speakers (ph) here with us on the international desk monitoring output too. We're (INAUDIBLE) working in Urdu and in English, we're basically -- we're working flat out for you.

HARRIS: OK, Isha, appreciate it, thank you.

COLLINS: Quickly want to sort of reset the situation that we have been following all morning long here, and remind you what has happened in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. You are looking at video of the former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, just moments before she was assassinated.

We have also been able to update, at least at this point, the number of people her supporters who were also killed, that number right now rests at 22. We are learning as you just heard of all different cities inside of Pakistan where the tensions are growing in Karachi, Rawalpindi, Lahore.

There is violence, there are traffic jams, Musharraf pictures being torn down. We are going to follow this story throughout the day. We have heard from many world leaders are presidential candidates and what this situation means for the United States, the rest of the world and the people of Pakistan.

HARRIS: And just very quickly, we want to tell you that our coverage will continue throughout the day. Probably didn't need to remind you of that, but just wanted to make a note of this. We will be joining CNN INTERNATIONAL and YOUR WORLD TODAY in just moments. Again we want to encourage you to stay with us here at CNN. I'm Tony Harris.

COLLINS: I'm Heidi Collins.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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