Pakistan is reeling from grief and angrily rioting after opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was killed today by an assassin who shot her twice and then blew himself up.
Bhutto's body, accompanied by her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, and their three children, was flown in a military aircraft to her home province of Sindh in the south of the country hours after she was killed.
People started crying and wailing as Bhutto's coffin was brought to her family home in an ambulance.
"Show patience. Give us courage to bear this loss," Zardari urged the mourners as the coffin was carried into the house.
Within minutes of the former prime minister's death, furious and heart broken supporters began breaking windows at the hospital where she died, burning campaign posters of President Pervez Musharraf and stoning police and passing cars.
Hours later, several banks, government offices and cars were burning in Hyderabad. Shop owners in Karachi locked their doors in protest and self-defense. A train was halted and set on fire along with government-run grocery stores and election offices. Car tires were set ablaze in cities across the country to block intersections in protests that raised fears the entire country could be engulfed in violence.
Musharraf appeared on national TV to blame terrorists for Bhutto's death and vowed to kill or capture her murderers. But he also urged the country to remain calm and put the country's paramilitary forces on "red alert" to contain the fury. A three-day mourning period was announced and schools and banks will also be closed.
FBI and Homeland Security officials sent a bulletin late Thursday to U.S. law enforcement agencies citing Islamist Web sites as saying al-Qaida had claimed responsibility for the attack and that the group's No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, had planned it.
The bulletin, which was summarized by a law enforcement official who received it, cited no specific threats against the United States. The official asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the bulletin.
In Pakistan, the unrest was fiercest in Bhutto's native Sindh province and its capital, Karachi, where two police officers were wounded.
"Police in Sindh have been put on red alert," said a senior police official. "We have increased deployment and are patrolling in all the towns and cities, as there is trouble almost everywhere."
Nawaz Sharif, another former prime minister and opposition leader, said his party would boycott next month's elections.
"I demand that Musharraf should quit immediately," Sharif added.
Pakistan's distress was displayed when her wooden coffin was taken from the hospital to an ambulance and thousands of Pakistanis surged around, trying to touch it. It was only with difficulty that they were able to push through the sea of people, the coffin riding overhead on the hands of dozens of jostled pallbearers as they struggled to reach the ambulance.
Bhutto was among at least 20 killed in the blast that left the park in the city of Rawalpindi a grisly scene of chaos, body parts and blood.
John Moore, a photographer and eyewitness to Bhutto's assassination, said, "I heard a few gunshots. Benazir -- she fell down under the vehicle and quickly there was a bomb blast. And bodies and pieces of car -- things were flying through the air. There was a stampede, the smell of burned flesh. It was terrible."