World and Nation

Bhutto Killed By Blow to Head, Not By Bullet, According to Scotland Yard

Investigators from Scotland Yard have concluded that Benazir Bhutto, the Pakistani opposition leader, died after hitting her head as she was tossed by the force of a suicide blast, not from an assassin’s bullet, officials who have been briefed on the inquiry said Thursday.

The findings support the Pakistani government’s explanation of Bhutto’s death in December, an account that had been greeted with disbelief by Bhutto’s supporters, other Pakistanis and medical experts.

Also on Thursday, the Pakistani government announced the arrest of two more suspects in connection with the assassination plot but gave few other details.

Thousands of Bhutto’s supporters gathered in her hometown in southern Pakistan, marking the end of a 40-day mourning period.

It is unclear how the Scotland Yard investigators reached such conclusive findings absent autopsy results or other potentially important evidence that was washed away by cleanup crews in the immediate aftermath of the blast, which also killed more than 20 other people.

The British inquiry also determined that a lone gunman, whose image was captured in numerous photographs at the scene, also caused the explosion, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the report has not been made public. Pakistani authorities originally said there were two assailants, based partly on photographs splashed across the front pages of the nation’s leading newspapers.

Scotland Yard investigators verbally relayed their key findings to the government of President Pervez Musharraf on Thursday, according to the officials.

The investigators are expected to present a formal report to the Pakistani government on Friday, as well as to Bhutto’s widower, Asif Ali Zardari, who has become co-chairman of her Pakistan Peoples Party, and the couple’s 19-year-old son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who is a student in London.

Scotland Yard said through a spokesman in London that it would have no comment on the Bhutto report until after it was made public. The British team is to present its report on Friday to the inspector general of police, Abdul Majid, who is leading the Pakistani investigation team.

Scotland Yard’s report will be presented just days before the country’s parliamentary elections on Feb. 18.

The findings are certain to be met with widespread skepticism, especially from her supporters who blame the government for her death, in particular Musharraf and the leading politician of the party that backs him, Pervez Elahi. Nor are they expected to calm the turmoil in the country at the end of the 40 days of mourning for Bhutto.

Zardari and his party’s supporters say they believe she was shot, as do people who were riding with Bhutto when she died Dec. 27 after her vehicle came under attack as she left a political rally in Rawalpindi.