Benazir could have died of gunshots, says Musharraf (Lead)

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Washington, Jan 6 : Reiterating that slain ex-premier Benazir Bhutto was herself responsible for her assassination, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf indicated that she might have died of gunshots.

When asked whether a gunshot could be the reason of Benazir's death, Musharraf said, "Yes, yes," adding, "Yes, absolutely, yes. Possibility."

"For standing up outside the car, I think it was she to blame alone. Nobody else. Responsibility is hers," Musharraf said in an interview to 60 Minutes programme of the US-based CBS news.

When prodded by the interviewer about the security of Benazir, who was assassinated in Rawalpindi on December 27, Musharraf said that the government did everything for her security, "Yes, yes absolutely. And you have to...remember...she had the threat. So she was given more security than any other person."

Musharraf's statement indicating the demise of former Prime Minister by gunshot wound adds to confusing statements made by the Administration since December 27.

Just after the assassination and on the day Benazir was buried at her Larkana home, the Interior Ministry released the first video footage of the attack and made a controversial claim that she had died after being hit by the sunroof lever of her vehicle in the blast shockwave. enazir's party, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), refuted the claims with the eyewitnesses stating that the slain leader had ducked inside the SUV after the gunshots were fired.

The surfacing of new photographs and video clips further refuted the government's claim as new images clearly showed the assassin wearing a brown jacket and a pair of dark sunglasses standing adjacent to the SUV and shooting bullets at Benazir.

The makers of the SUV also denied that the vehicle had a metallic lever in its sunroof.

This led to the caretaker government led by Prime Minister Mohammedmian Soomro to make a U-turn by rendering an apology for its earlier statement about the sunroof theory, and expressed openness to probe every aspect into Benazir's death to the top editors of the country at a special briefing.

However, within hours of this the government reiterated that the former Prime Minister had died of head injury after being hit by sunroof of the SUV.

The large-scale international criticism of the shoddy investigations being launched by the Pakistan Government into the assassination and the growing demand for an international probe preferably by the UN on the lines of the probe of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri forced Musharraf to seek assistance from the British investigative agency, Scotland Yard.

A team of the Scotland Yard is currently in Pakistan to assist the local probing officials.

Musharraf's latest admission could add more speculations as everyday new twists appear in the assassination tale.

The PPP and other opposition parties have blamed the Musharraf regime for not providing enough security to the slain leader in spite of her repeated plea that her life is in danger from fundamentalists and sections within the Administration.

The latest speculation is the suspicious behaviour of Benazir's aide on the day of the assassination. Though the PPP has rejected the theory that one of her aide played a pivotal role in plotting the assassination attack, the absence of the suspected aide who is missing since December 27 has added fuel to the speculation.

ANI

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