Benazir Bhutto, the former Pakistani prime minister, has been killed in a gun and suicide bomb attack at an election rally in the city of Rawalpindi.
At least 16 others were also killed in the attack with another report saying at least 20 bodies were seen at the rally site after the explosion.
“At 6:16 p.m. she expired,” said Wasif Ali Khan, a member of Bhutto’s party, present at Rawalpindi General Hospital.
Police said a suicide bomber fired at Bhutto as she was leaving the rally venue in a park before blowing himself up.
“The man first fired at Bhutto’s vehicle. She ducked and then he blew himself up,” said Mohammad Shahid a police officer.
Al Jazeera’s Sohail Rahman reporting from Islamabad said several hundred people had attended the rally.
He added that questions would now be raised about security at the rally.
Benazir Bhutto’s coffin has now been taken from the hospital
Her supporters at the hospital began chanting “Dog, Musharraf, dog,” referring to Pakistan’s president, Pervez Musharraf.
Some of them smashed the glass door at the main entrance of the emergency unit, others burst into tears.
Government officials said Musharraf had been privately told of her death.
The killing is likely to deepen the political crisis in Pakistan, where radicals had vowed to disrupt the vote and Musharraf’s opponents, including Bhutto, accused him of planning to rig the result. Bhutto had served twice as Pakistani prime minister between 1988 and 1996.
She had returned to Pakistan from an eight-year exile on October 18.
Her homecoming parade in Karachi was also targeted by a suicide attacker, killing more than 140 people.
On that occasion she narrowly escaped injury. Earlier on Thursday, four people were shot dead and three wounded at an election rally of Nawaz Sharif, another former prime minister.
Sharif blamed supporters of the party that backs Musharraf.
The attacks are the worst directly related to the January 8 polls since campaigning intensified in mid-December.
pemudawilayah - opposition leader should be alert with this tragedy, one day the same thing will happen in Malaysia. Now, they using ISA to treat Malaysian people, tomorrow who’s gonna die cause fight for freedom and justice on Democracy"