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Bhutto's Brother Shot to Death by Pakistan Police

Asia: Estranged sibling of prime minister is killed with six followers in Karachi gun battle.

September 21, 1996|From Associated Press

KARACHI, Pakistan — Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's estranged brother was shot and killed Friday in a gun battle with police outside his Karachi home, hospital officials said.

Witnesses said at least six of Murtaza Bhutto's followers also were killed and several wounded in the confrontation. Police said two officers were injured.

Murtaza Bhutto, 42, was rushed to Mideast Hospital with six gunshot wounds to his neck and abdomen. He died on the operating table, hospital officials said.

A distraught Benazir Bhutto rushed to Karachi from the capital, Islamabad, said Bashir Riaz, a family friend. "As you can imagine, she is very upset."

The two siblings had been estranged since Murtaza Bhutto returned to Pakistan in 1993 after 16 years of exile in Syria.

Benazir Bhutto's family, a wealthy land-owning clan in Pakistan's southern Sindh province, has been repeatedly struck by tragedy over the last two decades.

Her father, who spent two years in jail after being overthrown in a bloodless coup in 1977, was hanged in the middle of the night without any family by his side.

Benazir Bhutto and her mother spent four years in jail during martial law, were tortured and later lived in exile in England.

In 1986, her younger brother, Shahnawaz Bhutto, died mysteriously in France.

There were conflicting reports about how Friday's shooting began.

Witnesses said the gun battle started outside Murtaza Bhutto's home in a posh Karachi neighborhood after a rally he had called to demand his sister's resignation.

They said dozens of Murtaza Bhutto's supporters attacked the Karachi police chief's house, which is located across the street. The police chief's guards responded by opening fire, they said.

But police officials said the incident started when Murtaza Bhutto's supporters fired on police, who had stopped their vehicles to search for several suspects wanted on terrorism and murder charges.

After the gun battle, a curfew was imposed on the area, where some of Pakistan's wealthiest residents and many diplomats live.

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Hundreds of Murtaza Bhutto's supporters gathered outside the hospital Friday night when his young Palestinian wife, Ghanva, announced his death, sobbing, "How could this happen?"

There had been considerable tension between police and Murtaza Bhutto's supporters leading up to the shootout following the arrest of one of his key aides, Mohammed Ali Sunara.

Sunara was wanted on several charges ranging from terrorist acts to murder.

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