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Of carnage, death & an unhappy homecoming

Last updated on: October 19, 2007 14:36 IST

Dismembered bodies, pools of blood and charred vehicles were what was left on the road as the jubilant homecoming of the former prime minister Benazir Bhutto turned into tragedy following twin bombings on her convoy.

As the first blast ripped through the procession, sending pieces of flesh in the air, stunned Pakistan People's Party workers, who had thronged the streets in thousands to greet their leader on her return from an eight-year self-exile, ducked for cover, their clothes torn and bloodied.

"Suddenly there was huge blast and we fell on each other," said Sherry Rehman, PPP's information secretary, adding, "And then there was another blast. I heard someone shouting 'Evacuate'... there was blood all around."      

People ran helter-skelter amid large pools of blood as a second blast, apparently by a suicide bomber ripped through a police van just 10 to 15 ft ahead of Bhutto's armoured truck, throwing up a huge cloud of fire and debris while raining splinters in all directions.

The powerful blasts blew apart scores of PPP workers who were dancing around Bhutto's truck along with policemen who were part of the security ring around her.        

An injured man hopped around on one foot in daze before he was led away by other people, as dozens of severed body parts and dismembered bodies lay near the armoured truck.

A severed head found near Bhutto's truck has become the focus of investigation into the blasts as sleuths said that it could be that of the suicide bomber.

The explosions torched several motorcycles and vehicles, including Bhutto's armoured truck whose windows were shattered and its outer shell dented by the blasts.

"This was a terrible act of terrorism perpetrated by Muslims on Muslims. We are all Muslims and we should learn to live together," said a bystander.

Policeman Falak Ahmad said the blasts occurred a little while after Bhutto stepped into the bulletproof interior of the truck after standing atop it for hours, waving to her cheering supporters as her motorcade inched its way from the airport to Pakistan founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah's mausoleum.

"The blasts occurred only around 15 feet from her truck. It was so powerful that it destroyed three police vehicles escorting Bhutto's truck," he said.

Through the night, private vehicles and ambulances ferried the wounded and dead to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, Aga Khan University Hospital and others where utter chaos prevailed as doctors struggled to attend to the hundreds of victims.

Some bystanders even cradled the wounded in their arms and rushed them to nearby hospitals while anxious crowds made a beeline for the hospitals to find out about their friends and kin who were part of Bhutto's triumphant motorcade.

The toll mounted rapidly in the hours after the blasts. Doctors at the JPMC said they had received 45 bodies while Liaquat National Hospital said it received 40 bodies.

Heaps of footwear and charred vehicles littered the street as the euphoria witnessed in Karachi over the PPP leader's return was swiftly replaced by an air of despondency and gloom.

Streets in Karachi wore a deserted look while government ordered closure of all educational institutions on Friday.

Rezaul H Laskar in Karachi
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