December 31, 2007


Channel 4 has new video of the Benazir Bhutto assassination that seems to indicate that the former Prime Minister was indeed hit by the assassin's bullet before she fell back into the car (click Watch this report).

The video, shot from behind Bhutto's vehicle and to the right, shows Bhutto's hair and shawl rise as the pistol discharges for the second time. She drops into the vehicle prior to the suicide bomber detonating. There is nothing in this video to indicate that the first and third shots had any effect.

While the new film shows her hair and shawl moving, however, it is not conclusive.

Unlike the Zapruder-filmed assassination (YouTube) of John F. Kennedy, however, there is not the spray of flesh and bone one might have expected from a pistol blast at near contact range of approximately six feet.

The ballistics expert interviewed by Channel 4, Roger Gray, notes the concussive blast of the bullet hitting her hair and shawl and suggests that it indicates a bullet strike on the left side of Bhutto's head. There were not, however, any direct signs of an invasive impact to Bhutto's skull as seen with Kennedy, just the movement of her hair and shawl. One might think that a bullet hitting Bhutto on the left side of the skull, penetrating, and exiting the right side of her skull would have shown signs of exiting in the form of a spray of blood and bone, which was not evident in the film footage.

So while it is probable that Bhutto was struck by a bullet, it is not conclusive, and the government account of her hitting her head cannot be conclusively ruled out.

Channel 4 was slightly deceptive in their account when they show a sunroof latch from her vehicle and state that there was no sign of blood, implying that the Pakistani government was lying. The government may very well be lying, but the latch they show does not support this; there were two on each side, and Channel 4 is clearly showing the right front latch, while it is the right rear latch that has blood on it and that Bhutto is said to have hit her head on.


It appears everyone is trying to spin the story of Bhutto's assassination for their own advantage, including the media.

Update: Image added.

It is worth noting that if a bullet struck Bhutto a glancing blow and ricocheted away without fully penetrating her skull, that it could possibly leave a wound that would not necessarily look like that of a typical gunshot wound, and instead look something like a blunt force trauma.

If this is the case—and without an autopsy, there are no definitive answers—then the Pakistani government, seeing blood on the rear latch and not seeing evidence of a clear bullet hole, may have incorrectly surmised the cause of death as an impact with the rear sunroof latch as she went down. This is incompetence, but not necessarily a conspiracy to deprive Bhutto of her martyrdom.

In any event, it does not excuse Channel 4 from showing the front sunroof latch and insinuating that there was no blood on any latch, when they clearly took a closeup of the front right latch for their closely-cropped still photo, still in the exact position as shown in the photo above.

Update: AllahPundit's analysis here.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at December 31, 2007 08:06 AM

Pistols and rifles do not do similar damage. It is not uncommon for pistol bullets to stay inside the cranial vault, but it is unlikely that there would have been visible "spray" even if it had exited..

Posted by: karlJ at December 31, 2007 08:39 AM

KarlJ said it first. It's not uncommon for .22LR slugs to remain inter-cranial.

Granted I do not know that the weaspon was a .22...

Posted by: dad29 at December 31, 2007 09:37 AM

I'd have to disagree with you on that one, karlJ.

I've seen enough crime-screen photos of pistol shots to the head to feel confident in stating that if the weapon used was a 9mm or a 7.62 round like those found in the Tokarev that I think may have been used, we're talking about a bullet moving at approximately 1,100-1,300 fps at the moment of impact, which should be enough velocity to create a visible "spray".

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at December 31, 2007 09:41 AM


While the channel 4 video masks the gun as it fires, an early video shows the slide cycling as it fires. The amount of pistol movement and the amount visible blast even in daylight would seem to indicate something more substantial that a .22 LR was used.

I suspect a 7.62x25 or 9mm for several reasons, first because of the commonality of these kinds of ammunition in the region, but also because of the size of the pistol, the size of the muzzle flash, and the fact that the 7.62x25, while technically obsolete, is still used as an assassination weapon because while the round has less favorable wound characteristics than most modern cartridges, it will defeat lesser body armor classes because of its enhanced penetration due to using a smaller diameter bullet.

I of course reserve the right to be completely wrong, but in this instance, I don't think that I am.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at December 31, 2007 09:48 AM

[For karlJ, by CY]

In my carers as a cop, SWAT medic, ME contract medic and nurse, I've seen the effects of many shootings. If you are expecting the sort of effect seen on the Zapruder film, it is not going to happen. Only on TV do we get that sort of damage from pistol bullets. Pistol bullets frequently stay inside the body, or, especially if they've hit bone, exit with much less energy. Since the round was fired from below, another thing to consider is that what little exit spray there may have been could have been caught in her head scarf.

7.62Tok is a high velocity round compared to other pistol rounds. It still is not fast enough for hydrostatic effects and generally creates a simple through and through wound channel. This is because a round that is designed to penetrate armor is not going to deform in flesh. I have seen this first hand. Most available loads are intended for somewhat longer SMG barrels as well, so flash very dramatically when fired from pistols.

Having worked in various 'Stans, I have to say your caliber assumptions are not correct. Everything is available, though I saw .32ACP, .380, 9mm Mak and 9mm para most often. Muzzle flash is not a good indicator of caliber when using 3rd world ammo which tends to flash more than Western loads, but which can be very inconsistent.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at December 31, 2007 11:38 AM

I lean toward the slug ricocheting off the skull. People simply do not understand how common this is.

Posted by: Peter at December 31, 2007 12:58 PM

While it is slightly possible that the shooter and bomber could have been acting alone without knowledge of eachother I think that probably not what happened.
So we actually have 2 suicide attackers. Clearly the shooter knew he would be blown up or shot. I cannot imagine pro Musharaff factions being Islamic Suicide Bombers. Looks like Al Qaida or Taliban.

Posted by: Dennis D at December 31, 2007 01:12 PM