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Scotland Yard to help probe Bhutto assassination

  • Story Highlights
  • Bhutto's party says it will take part in rescheduled elections
  • Scotland Yard to help investigate Bhutto slaying, Pervez Musharraf says
  • Pakistan's parliamentary elections delayed until February 18
  • Elections were scheduled for January 8 but riots after Bhutto's death forced delay
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said Wednesday that British investigators are heading to Pakistan to help clear up the confusion surrounding Thursday's assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

Pakistani police stand guard outside the presidential palace in Islamabad on Wednesday.

"I am very thankful to [British] Prime Minister Gordon Brown that when I made this request he accepted that," Musharraf said in a nationally televised address.

The Scotland Yard team, he said, "will solve all the confusion" surrounding how Bhutto died last week.

Britain's Metropolitan Police Services confirmed that it is sending a small team of counterterrorism police "to provide support and assistance in the investigation into the death of Benazir Bhutto."

The United States welcomed Pakistan's decision to consult with British investigators.

"It's very important that a transparent and comprehensive investigation move ahead quickly," said White House Press Secretary Dana Perino.

Asked if the United States would aid in the investigation, National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said he had no information on whether Pakistan had requested U.S. assistance.

The United States has offered to send forensic specialists from the FBI, according to the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan. Photo See photos that could hold clues to assassination

Pakistan's decision to accept Britain's help in the investigation is a dramatic turnaround from the government's position laid out last weekend by Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema.

"We understand our environment better than the international community," Cheema said Saturday. "Scotland Yard cannot investigate in Waziristan. They don't understand Pashto."

The following day, Brown telephoned Musharraf, who was more receptive to the idea of Scotland Yard's help, according to a press release from Downing Street.

Bhutto, 54, was killed Thursday in a targeted attack that involved a gunman and a suicide blast in Rawalpindi, outside the capital, Islamabad. Her party disputes Pakistani government statements on the cause of her death. See timeline of how Pakistan's crisis developed

In his television address Wednesday, Musharraf expressed his condolences about the killing of Bhutto, who he said "has been martyred by terrorists."

"I understand the tragedy and the sadness and anger it has brought to the People's Party activists and among the Sindhi population," Musharraf said. "I would like to say I personally am very sad and angry about this assassination, and I value the emotions of the nation." Video Watch Musharraf talk about Bhutto's death

Musharraf also announced that the government has deployed army rangers to Sindh province -- Bhutto's main support base -- which has been heavily damaged by looters in the wake of her assassination.

The military's mission is "to protect the lives and property of masses," he said.

Pakistan's Election Commission on Wednesday postponed upcoming parliamentary elections until February 18 because of the unrest following the assassination.

The elections were originally scheduled for January 8, but holding them then would have been "impossible" because of the time needed to replace burned ballot papers and repair ransacked election offices, Chief Election Commissioner Justice Qazi Muhammad Farooq said.

The violence that followed the assassination caused more than $200 million in damage and claimed at least 58 lives, according to the government.

Provincial officials also wanted the elections delayed until after the Muslim holy month of Muharram, which will begin around January 9 and end about February 6.

Hours after the Election Commission announcement, Bhutto's party said it would take part in the February 18 elections.

Bhutto's widower, Asif Ali Zardari, made the announcement at a press conference from the family's compound in Larkana, Pakistan. He has taken control of her Pakistan People's Party in the wake of her death.

Despite its participation, the PPP stands by its objection to the government's decision to delay to the vote.

Both major opposition parties wanted the elections to go ahead as scheduled next week, hoping to capitalize on the sympathy following Bhutto's killing.

"We will consult with the party leadership and the other political parties of Pakistan to evolve a strategy to protest against this delay in the election," said an official with Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N party.

Kanwar Dilshad, the commission's secretary general, had earlier said a decision would be made after consulting with all the political parties.

However, spokesmen for Bhutto's PPP and the PML-N party said neither had been formally consulted before the announcement.

Sharif earlier told reporters that he believed Musharraf intended to delay the vote because his party would not garner enough seats in parliament to rule.


The United States, which had feared that the government might delay the vote indefinitely, welcomed Pakistan's decision to announce a specific election date.

"It's important that there is a firm date for elections," Johndroe said shortly after Wednesday's announcement. "We hope that all the political parties will work together to ensure a free and fair election." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Brian Todd and Zain Verjee contributed to this report.

All About Pakistani PoliticsBenazir BhuttoPervez MusharrafNawaz Sharif

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