MQM chief Altaf Hussain telephones Bhutto and conveys his sorrow over Karachi bomb attack

Karachi, Oct.19 : Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Altaf Hussain telephoned former premier Benazir Bhutto on Friday to offer his condolences after a "terrorist" blast targeting her homecoming parade.

Altaf conveyed his deepest sorrow over the terrorist attack, according to The News.

Altaf's commiseration came a day after at least 138 people were killed and hundreds were injured in a suspected suicide bomb attack targetting former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on her return after eight years of self-imposed exile.

Two explosions went off a minute apart shortly after midnight near Karsaz close to the vehicle Bhutto was travelling, at the head of a procession of hundreds of thousands of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) supporters who had flooded the streets of Karachi to welcome her.

"The blasts hit two police vehicles which were escorting the truck carrying Bhutto. The target was the truck," said a senior Karachi police official.

The attack reportedly bore the hallmarks of al Qaeda and resembled assassination attempts by militants linked to the terrorist network on President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz in recent years.

The Pakistan Interior Ministry confirmed 70 deaths in the attack.

Officials at six hospitals in Karachi reported over 130 dead and about 600 wounded, making it one of the deadliest bombings in Pakistan's history.

Bhutto was leading the procession to Quaid-e-Azam's mausoleum, where she was to give a speech. However, after the two explosions, she was rushed to the safety of Bilawal House.

"Benazir Bhutto was immediately taken to her ancestral Bilawal House after the blast," said Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Cheema.

"She's absolutely safe." Rehman Malik, an aide to Bhutto who was travelling with her on the truck, said the blasts went off while she was resting inside the vehicle.

Splinters wounded two PPP leaders Begum Abida Hussain and Fauzia Wahab, who were standing on the truck.

More than two dozen vehicles, including police mobile units, were completely shattered," the Daily Times quoted an eyewitnesses as saying.
Police officer Raja Umer Khitab said that the evidences at the scene suggested it was a suicide bombing.

He said that the police had recovered part of a torso wearing a suicide jacket, as well as the head and hands and feet of the suicide bomber.
According to witnesses, the bomber tried to enter the inner security cordon of the PPP workers around Bhutto, but was stopped, and then he set off the explosion.

The second blast originated from a golden-coloured Pajero parked on the road, witnesses added.

Meanwhile Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao said that there were two blasts, one on the left side and one on the right side of the procession.

"It appears these were suicide attacks, but it is not confirmed," he added.

Earlier, Intelligence reports had warned of threats of suicide attacks against Bhutto by militants linked to al Qaeda, the Taliban and Baitullah Mehsud. (ANI)