The Pakistani government released video of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's last moments before her assassination, and announced it has evidence linking a militant leader with links to al Qaeda as responsible for her assassination.
"We have intelligence intercepts indicating that al Qaeda leader Baitullah Mehsud is behind her assassination," Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema said. The government claims Mehsud called a follower at 9:15 a.m. to congratulate him. "It was a spectacular job," Mehsud allegedly said. "They were brave boys who killed."
Mehsud is thought to be the commander of pro-Taliban forces in the tribal region of South Waziristan, where al-Qaida fighters are also active.
The announcement came hours after Bhutto was laid to rest after an emotional funeral and a night of violence that has left at least 27 dead across the country.
The new explanations were part of a rapidly evolving political crisis triggered by the death of Bhutto, President Pervez Musharraf's most powerful foe in the upcoming elections. The rioting by Bhutto's furious supporters raised concerns that this nuclear-armed nation, plagued by chaos and the growing threat from Islamic militants even before the killing, was in danger of spinning out of control.
Pentagon officials said Friday they have seen nothing to give them any worries about the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.
By naming a potential suspect, the government hopes to curtail the current wave of violence.
Former Pakistan Defense Secretary General and current political analyst Talat Masood said, "Probably they want to defuse the present tension. People have very little faith in the credibility of the government, and that is why you will find there is always doubts even if the government is speaking the truth."
The grief and anger today were still raw, especially in southern Pakistan, as more than 100,000 mourners paid their last respects as Bhutto's draped coffin was carried 7 kilometers from her ancestral home to the family mausoleum in Sindh Province. Supporters lunged at Bhutto's casket as it passed, hoping for a final touch.
"Bhutto lives," they chanted. Her family, her husband and three teenage children were among the throng.
Bhutto's nephew Zulfqar Ali Bhutto said, "What has happened is incredibly tragic, and we recognize that she is the fourth Bhutto to die and she is a shahid."
Shahid means martyr, and those who filled the family mausoleum today believe she died fighting for democracy.
Bhutto was laid to rest next to her father, former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was executed in 1979, after a military coup.
The government today also disputed reports that Bhutto had died from gunshot wounds. Citing video that apparently shows the incident, the Interior Ministry said Bhutto died after hitting her head on the car she was riding in. The ministry says three shots fired by an assassin missed, but the shock wave from the subsequent bomb blast knocked Bhutto's head into a protrusion on the edge of the sunroof.
Though Islamabad is peaceful, violence threatens to spiral out of control elsewhere in Pakistan. Bhutto's supporters protested, ransacking banks, exchanging gunshots with police and setting cars, buses and trains on fire.
In Bhutto's home province in the south, police opened fire on a crowd, injuring five protesters. Tonight, soldiers are on the streets with orders to shoot looters on sight. In Peshawar, in the north, an angry mob attacked an office of Musharraf's political party. Many Pakistanis blame him for Bhutto's death because she was his fiercest political rival and fear that if the violence continues, Musharraf will reimpose martial law.
Amid all the grief, few believe that the government will keep its promise to go ahead with parliamentary elections scheduled for 11 days from now, in which Bhutto was the main opposition candidate.
Musharraf, who called for three days of mourning following the assassination, has so far not announced any plans to delay the elections. After Bhutto's death, opposition leader and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said he would boycott the election.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.