Unprecedented security for Bhutto's return

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Islamabad, Oct 18 (UNI) As many as 20,000 police personnel, anti-sniper shields and a mass of her own supporters would guard former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto when she returns home today after an eight-year self imposed exile.

Police marksmen would take positions on rooftops and flyovers, while bomb disposal squads were sweeping the former premier's route on her planned 18-hour procession from Karachi airport to Quaid-e-Azam's mausoleum.

Sindh government, however, has asked Ms Bhutto to cut short her planned procession because of security threats from groups linked to Al Qaeda, the Taliban and Baitullah Mehsud.

The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) said their leader would be protected by one million supporters estimated to receive her.

''It is amixture of our own diehard supporters who will be surrounding her to keep her safe, and the administration, which has promised foolproof security,'' PPP Senator Safdar Abbasi said.

Ms Bhutto would be behind bullet-proof screens as she rides a specially modified 20-foot shipping container attached to the back of a lorry through the city. Up to 20,000 police and paramilitary troops would be deployed for her arrival - 8,000 to 10,000 on the route itself and another 10,000 elsewhere in Karachi city.

Police has blocked three access roads on the highway leading from the airport, and seven bomb disposal squads had started sweeping the route, senior city police official Mazhar Shahab said.

Ms Bhutto would be surrounded by three separate security cordons.

The outermost will prevent all access to her lorry, a moving platform for journalists and about 10 cars for her senior party workers. In the second, plain-clothed and uniformed officers will ride and among the party cars. And the innermost cordon will be security officials with Ms Bhutto on her truck.

She would address her supporters at Jinnah's mausoleum from behind bullet-proof screens.


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