Pakistan's former prime minister and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto has been assassinated.
Police and aides say a suicide bomber fired gunshots at Ms. Bhutto just moments before blowing himself up, killing at least 16 others.
Ms. Bhutto died shortly after addressing a rally for upcoming elections in a park in Pakistan's army headquarters in Rawalpindi, outside the capital, Islamabad. She was rushed to a local hospital, but doctors were unable to save her. She was 54-years-old.
Hours before the attack, VOA's Ayaz Gul spoke with Ms. Bhutto, who had just held talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Pakistan. She told VOA that she and President Karzai had agreed they must work together to eliminate terrorism and extremism.
Ms. Bhutto returned to Pakistan in October after eight years in exile. She escaped injury in a double suicide attack during her homecoming procession in Karachi that killed around 140 people.
For months, Ms. Bhutto had been in talks with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf for a possible power-sharing deal, strongly favored by the United States. But talks had stalled, and Ms. Bhutto was campaigning to run in general elections set for January 8.
Ms. Bhutto also sought to join forces with another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, whose opposition party is also running in the upcoming elections.
Hours before Ms. Bhutto's death, four people were killed by gunmen who opened fire on supporters of Mr. Sharif during a political rally near Rawalpindi.
Sharif supporters are blaming members of the party that backs President Musharraf for the violence. Mr. Musharraf's Pakistan Muslim League-Q party has denied those accusations.
Mr. Sharif is banned from seeking a seat himself due to past criminal convictions.
Sharif is banned from seeking a seat himself due to past criminal convictions.