ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was killed by the force of a suicide blast and not by gunfire, according to a report released Friday by detectives from Britain’s Scotland Yard.
The report concluded that a lone attacker fired shots at Bhutto before detonating explosives at a political rally in Rawalpindi on December 27, but said that bullets were not the cause of death.
“In essence, all the evidence indicates that one suspect has fired the shots before detonating an improvised explosive device,” said an executive summary of the report, signed by Detective Superintendent John MacBrayne.
“The blast caused a violent collision between her head and the escape hatch area of the vehicle, causing a severe and fatal head injury,” it added.
The British team of forensics and other experts spent two-and-a-half weeks in Pakistan in January at the invitation of President Pervez Musharraf.
The report said the team’s task was complicated by the “lack of an extended and detailed search of the crime scene, the absence of an autopsy, and the absence of recognised body recovery and victim identification processes.”
But it said that the “evidence that is available is sufficient for reliable conclusions to be drawn.”
Scotland Yard said it had relied on X-rays taken after Bhutto’s death, saying that the only apparent injury was a “major trauma to the right side of the head.”
Based on consultations with a pathologist from Britain’s interior ministry put alongside accounts of those who had contact with her body, the “available evidence suggests that there was no gunshot injury.”
“The only tenable cause for the rapidly fatal head injury in this case is that it occurred as the result of impact due to the effects of the bomb-blast,” it quoted the report by the pathologist, Nathaniel Cary, as saying.
“In my opinion… Benazir Bhutto died as a result of a severe head injury sustained as a consequence of the bomb-blast and due to head impact somewhere in the escape hatch of the vehicle,” his report added.
Bhutto was standing with the top half of her body outside the car, waving at supporters, when the attack happened. Pakistan’s interior ministry initially said she had hit her head on the lever of the car sunroof while trying to duck.
The report said that Bhutto’s injury was consistent with having been blown against the armour plating of the hatch of the vehicle by the force of high explosives, detonating at a velocity between 6000 and 9000 metres per second.
The report said it was an “unfortunate and misleading aspect of this case that the roof escape hatch has frequently been referred to as a sunroof. It is not. It is designed and intended to be used solely as a means of escape.”
It said that the “overwhelming conclusion must be that she did not succeed in getting her head entirely below the lip of the escape hatch when the explosion occurred.”
Rejecting initial accounts that two attackers were involved, it said that “all the available evidence points toward the person who fired shots and the person who detonated the explosives being one and the same person.”
Body parts from one unidentified individual remained, it said, and they were thought to belong to the attacker.