Questions raised over Scotland Yard report: ‘Benazir killed by bomb, not bullet’
By Syed Irfan Raza and Muhammad Asghar, Dawn, February 9, 2008
ISLAMABAD, Feb 8: The Scotland Yard’s report into the assassination of Benazir Bhutto raises many questions as its author seems to be uncertain about the actual cause of her death and the identity of the killers remains a mystery.
In the four-page investigation report made public on Friday in a press conference by the head of the local investigation team, Chaudhry Abdul Majeed, the UK investigators said Ms Bhutto died of a severe head injury sustained from the effect of the bomb blast, not by the gunfire.
Chaudhry Abdul Majeed is an additional inspector-general of CID.
However, in the same report a UK Home Office Pathologist, Dr Nathaniel Cary, remains “unable categorically to exclude the possibility of there being a gunshot wound to the upper trunk or neck” of Ms Bhutto.
Pakistan People’s Party’s leader Makhdoom Amin Fahim, who was with Ms Bhutto in the vehicle at the time of the attack, had said at a press conference after the assassination that Ms Bhutto had ducked from the sunroof of the vehicle after the gunshots and she was inside the bullet-proof jeep when the blast took place.
The gist of the report suggested that it cannot be considered conclusive as the team was asked to determine the cause of death only. Lack of an autopsy and washing of the site did not help matters.
The report also negated an earlier theory of the interior ministry that two persons had committed the assassination — one of them fired three shots and the other blew himself up.
The Scotland Yard said there had been a single attacker who had fired the shot at close range and seconds later detonated the bomb. However, the British investigators could not solve the puzzle how the attacker managed to deceive the security cover around Ms Bhutto and went so close to her with explosives and a gun. The report said: “Body parts from only one individual remain unidentified. Expert opinion provides strong evidence that they originate from the suicide bomber.”
Despite highlighting some handicaps that the Scotland Yard team felt during its work, for example limited X-ray material, absence of an autopsy and CT scan, washing of the site, the investigation report nevertheless endorsed the government’s earlier claim that Ms Bhutto had died of head injury after hitting somewhere in the escape hatch (or sunroof) of the vehicle.
But even then, the interior ministry officials who held a meeting with the British investigators before releasing the report to the media expressed ‘dissatisfaction’, interior ministry sources said.
The sources said the officials termed the report ‘unclear’ and said it had indirectly exposed security lapses and poor handling.
The British experts’ report also confirmed that shots had been fired from a 30 bore gun, but they did not cause the death.
The Pakistani investigator, Mr Majeed, said: “The bullet fired by the gunman might have gone somewhere else, but did not hit anybody.”
The report said Scotland Yard was asked by Islamabad to assist the local authorities establish the cause and circumstances of Ms Bhutto’s death. However, the matter of establishing responsibility had remained entirely a matter for the Pakistani authorities.
Mr Majeed said the 15-member Scotland Yard team was led by a detective superintendent senior investigating officer. It had two forensic experts, an expert in analysing and assessing video and an investigating officer.
He said the team had arrived in Pakistan on Jan 4 and worked for 18 days on the case. A total of 22 samples of evidence were collected from the scene of the blast and given to the Scotland Yard along with original X-ray copies.
The report said high explosives of a type used in this sort of device detonate at a velocity ranging between 6,000 and 9,000 metres per second.
This means that considering the quantity of explosives and distances involved, such an explosion would generate more force than would be necessary to cause the consequences that followed.
It said Ms Bhutto’s vehicle had been fitted with “b6 grade armour” and designated to withstand gunfire and bomb blast.
It is an unfortunate and misleading aspect of the 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 has a solid lip with a depth of nine centimetres.
The report said Ms Bhutto’s injury was entirely consistent with her head impacting upon the lip of the escape hatch. It said “the detailed analysis of the media footage provides supporting evidence. Ms Bhutto’s head did not completely disappear from view until 0.6 seconds before the blast”.
It said she can be seen moving forward and to the right after ducking into the vehicle. Whilst her exact head position at the time of the detonation can never be ascertained, the overwhelming conclusion is that she did not succeed in getting her head entirely below the lip of the escape hatch when the explosion occurred.
The Yard said the footage, when considered with the findings of the forensic explosive expert that the bombing suspect was within two metres of the vehicle towards its rear and with no person or other obstruction between him and the vehicle, strongly suggested that the bomber and the gunman were at the same position.
It is virtually inconceivable that anyone who was where the gunman can clearly be seen on the media footage could have survived the blast and escape.
“In essence, all the evidence indicates that one suspect fired the shots before detonating an improvised explosive device. At the time of the attack, this person was standing close to the rear of Ms Bhutto’s vehicle. The blast caused a violent collision between her head and the escape batch area of the vehicle, causing a severe and fatal head injury.”
Chaudhry Abdul Majeed, the CID officer who led the Pakistan government’s inquiry into Ms Bhutto’s case, said his people had asked people travelling with Ms Bhutto at that time and also her lawyer Mr Naik to help the investigators.
Abdul Majeed confirmed that police had already arrested two suspects – Aitzaz and the other Sher Zaman. He said two “important” suspects, Husnain Gul and Rafaqat, were arrested by the police on Thursday.
He said they appeared to have facilitated the suicide bomber. The two suspects have been remanded in police custody for 12 days.
Abdul Majeed said Aitzaz had told interrogators that he was part of a team instructed to kill Benazir Bhutto. He had also named Baitullah Mehsud as the mastermind behind the plot.
Summary of Scotland Yard report on Benazir Bhutto’s assassination - Daily Times
Aitzaz Rejects Scotland Yard Report - Daily Times