Report: al-Qaeda Claims Bhutto Assassination Operation
An early report from Adnkronos indicates that al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the assassination of Benazir Bhutto earlier today in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. It was Mustafa Abu Al-Yazid, al-Qaeda's military commander in Afghanistan, that made the statement for the terrorist group. The well-connected Sayed Saleem Shahzad reports that the order to assassinate Bhutto "was made by al-Qaeda No. 2, the Egyptian doctor, Ayman al-Zawahiri in October. " (For more on Mustafa Abu Al-Yazid, see this May al-Jazeera report via The Long War Journal.)
Bhutto's angry and distraught supporters have taken to the streets in her (and Musharraf's) native Karachi, where a witness said that "[a]t least three banks, a government office and a post office were set on fire." Reports of unrest within Pakistan extend from Karachi to the south all the way to Kashmir in the north.
What lies ahead is the potential for a perfect storm for the al-Qaeda-Taliban alliance, as its insurgency will be immeasurably aided by widespread public discontent and violence. Opposition to Musharraf may be the only thing Bhutto supporters have in common with the Islamist terrorists of Pakistan's tribal areas, but it could be just enough. Fueled by anger and passion, the initial reaction is to blame Musharraf - directly and indirectly - and currently absent is any ire toward the terrorists who have taken credit.
It is with no small irony that in Benazir Bhutto's final address she said, “I put my life in danger and came here because I feel this country is in danger. People are worried. We will bring the country out of this crisis.”
Unchecked angry responses through widespread rioting, however, risks aiding those who murdered her as much as hurting a reviled Musharraf, whom they hold primarily responsible.
Truly difficult days lie ahead in Pakistan.