'It was what we feared, but dared not to happen': Christina Lamb
'It was what we feared, but dared not to happen'
Our correspondent was on board Benazir Bhutto's bombed bus. She reports on a tragic homecoming
THE sound came first. A low, ominous bang, like the sound of a large metal door clanging shut.
I was standing in the middle of Benazir Bhutto's open-top bus, talking to Aitzaz Ahsan, her long-time legal adviser. We stared at each other in horror. This was what we had all feared but somehow, crazily, dared to hope wouldn't happen.
Someone shouted: "Down!" But there was no need. A wall of orange flame came over the left side of the bus and blasted us all to the floor.
The twanging music that for nine hours had been blaring out, welcoming Bhutto home after eight years in exile, stopped. For a moment there was ghastly silence.
"It's okay, it's okay – it's a burst tyre," said Agha Siraj Dur-rani, an amiable giant of a man who, as the closest friend of Bhutto's husband, had spent the whole journey scanning the crowds for potential threats. But we all knew what it really was.
Then the sirens and screams started. I was sure there would be another one and that it would be worse. Within a minute, it came.
Again the bang, much louder and nearer this time, and once more from the left. Orange flames shot up all around us, rocking the bus and sending pieces of shrapnel raining down.
In the left-hand corner at the back of the bus, I could see two young men lying dead in pools of blood.
There were probably 20 of us on the bus when the attack happened in Karachi on Thursday night. Around me were some of Bhutto's closest lieutenants. She had told them not to come, not wanting the party's leadership all at risk. But there were also relatives and friends.
Bhutto herself had gone downstairs 15 minutes earlier to a bulletproof compartment to relax her feet, swollen from standing for so many hours. We had no idea if she was still alive.
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