Bhutto assassination probe highly critical

April 16, 2010 at 3:01 AM
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NEW YORK, April 16 (UPI) -- A United Nations probe into the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto says Pakistani officials "failed profoundly" to protect her.

The much-awaited report on the Dec. 27, 2007, death of Bhutto in Pakistan's garrison city of Rawalpindi, also dismissed the subsequent investigation into her death as prejudiced, the U.N. News Center said on its Web site.

The inquiry, sought by the Pakistani government of President Asif Ali Zardari, the husband of Bhutto, however, did not say who or which group was responsible for the assassination.

Bhutto died in a suicide bomb attack after she returned from exile. The government of former Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who was the Pakistani president at the time, blamed the leader of the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaida for the attack.

"A range of government officials failed profoundly in their efforts first to protect Ms. Bhutto and second to investigate with vigor all those responsible for her murder, not only in the execution of the attack, but also in its conception, planning and financing," the U.N. report said. "Responsibility for Ms. Bhutto's security on the day of her assassination rested with the federal Government, the government of Punjab and the Rawalpindi district police. None of these entities took necessary measures to respond to the extraordinary, fresh and urgent security risks that they knew she faced.

"Particularly inexcusable was the government's failure to direct provincial authorities" to provide Bhutto the same stringent security measures as were provided earlier to two other former prime ministers, the report said.

The report said the "discriminatory treatment is profoundly troubling" as there had been an attempt on her life just days earlier. It said police actions immediately after the incident, including the hosing down of the crime scene and failure to collect and preserve evidence, inflicted irreparable damage on the investigation.

"The Commission believes that the failures of the police and other officials to react effectively to Ms. Bhutto's assassination were, in most cases, deliberate," the report said.

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