KARACHI, Pakistan – Police questioned three people Saturday over the deadly bombing of Benazir Bhutto’s caravan, which killed at least 136 people and shattered what was intended to be a triumphant return from exile.
The men were linked to a vehicle that police believe was used by one of the attackers who threw a grenade at the convoy late Thursday, causing Bhutto’s campaign bus to come to a halt, said a senior investigator who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation. Seconds later, a suicide bomber blew himself up with a shrapnel-filled explosive.
Police detained the three men in the southern Punjab province – a center for militancy – and took them to Karachi for questioning.
The senior investigator said police believed the men, who have yet to be charged, hold crucial clues on the bombing.
The attack was the deadliest in Pakistan’s history, turning Bhutto’s jubilant homecoming parade into a scene of carnage. More than 200 were injured.
Pakistan’s government on Saturday denied involvement in the attack while sporadic violence flared in Karachi, a boisterous city of 15 million people.
Angry over the bombing, supporters of her Pakistan People’s Party threw stones and burned tires in parts of the city. Fourteen people were shot in a neighborhood that is one of her strongholds after outsiders mixed with Bhutto supporters. Police said the outsiders began firing shots.
“They (Bhutto supporters) are expressing their anguish over the attack on their leader and the deaths of so many people,” said Fayaz Khan, a senior Karachi police officer.
Authorities say the bombing bore the hallmarks of a warlord and the al-Qaida terror network.
Bhutto blamed al-Qaida and Taliban militants for the assassination attempt against her, but also hinted that government or military officials could have been involved.
“I think we should stop playing blame games. The government provided the best possible security to her,” Deputy Information Minister Tariq Azim said Saturday.