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Bhutto assassination roils US presidential race, bringing terrorism back to the fore

Bhutto assassination roils US presidential race, bringing terrorism back to the fore

The assassination of former Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto pushed terrorism to the forefront in U.S. voters' minds and highlighted the candidacies of presidential hopefuls with long records on national security.
Bhutto's assassination on Thursday rippled through the presidential race for the White House in 2008 as candidates scrambled to respond and adjusted campaign plans on a day overshadowed by the terrorist attack in Rawalpindi.
The assassination came a week before the Jan. 3 caucuses in the rural, midwestern state of Iowa, the crucial first contest in the political parties' state-by-state process of selecting presidential nominees.
The deadly incident at an election rally in Pakistan could help presidential candidates such as Republican Rudy Giuliani, who was in charge of New York City when terrorists struck on Sept. 11, 2001, and Vietnam War veteran John McCain, a longtime member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Rodham Clinton has argued that her experience makes her prepared to lead the United States in troubled times. Rival Barack Obama has pushed a hard line in dealing with Pakistan and the search for Osama bin Laden.
At a high school appearance on Thursday, Clinton said she had come to know Bhutto during the former prime minister's years in office and her time in exile and was "profoundly saddened and outraged" by the assassination.
In a world of such violence and threats, Clinton said, "it certainly raises the stakes high for what we expect from our next president. I know from a lifetime of working to make change."
Giuliani said Thursday the assassination of Bhutto underscored a need for the U.S. to increase its efforts to combat terrorism.
"Her murderers must be brought to justice, and Pakistan must continue the path back to democracy and the rule of law," Giuliani said in a statement. "Her death is a reminder that terrorism anywhere _ whether in New York, London, Tel-Aviv or Rawalpindi _ is an enemy of freedom. We must redouble our efforts to win the terrorists' war on us."
McCain, in a statement, said the death of Bhutto "underscores yet again the grave dangers we face in the world today and particularly in countries like Pakistan, where the forces of moderation are arrayed in a fierce battle against those who embrace violent Islamic extremism.
"Given Pakistan's strategic location, the international terrorist groups that operate from its soil, and its nuclear arsenal, the future of that country has deep implications for the security of the United States and its allies. America must stand on the right side of this ongoing struggle," he said, noting that he has made numerous visits to Pakistan.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney focused on the threat of "global, violent radical jihadism."
"This type of loss of life points out again the need for our nation and other civilized nations of the West and Muslim world to come together to support moderate Islamic leaders and moderate Islamic people to help them in their effort to reject the violence and the extreme," Romney told reporters after his first campaign event in the northeastern state of New Hampshire. "The world is very much at risk by virtue of these radical, violent extremists and we must come together, in great haste and great earnestness, to help overcome the threat of the spread of radical, violent jihad."
On Wednesday night, Romney had criticized Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf for imposing martial law. Romney was asked if he had more sympathy for such action given the attack on Bhutto.
"I believe it was a mistake. I believe as well that martial law was principally imposed by him to protect himself from political challenge, a challenge from the Supreme Court and others, and believe that it was not a productive course for his nation," Romney said.
Another Republican candidate, Fred Thompson, an actor and former senator, said the assassination shows that the United States could be just "one terrorist plot away from having disaster visit us."
"It's indicative of the kind of world that we live in today. It is a dangerous world. It is a complicated world," he said. "We need to understand that it could be a lot closer than Pakistan for us if we don't do what is right."
Obama said he was shocked and saddened by Bhutto's death.
"She was a respected and resilient advocate of democracy for the people of Pakistan," he said. "We have to make sure that we are clear as Americans that we stand for democracy and that we will be steadfast in our desire to end the types of terrorist attacks that have blighted not just Pakistan but the rest of the of the world."
Republican candidate Mike Huckabee said the assassination was "devastating news for the people of Pakistan, and my prayers go out to them."
"The terrible violence surrounding Pakistan's upcoming election stands in stark contrast to the peaceful transition of power that we embrace in our country through our Constitution," Huckabee said in a statement.


Updated : 2021-06-22 01:15 GMT+08:00