Rawalpindi, Pakistan: Pakistani opposition leader, and twice prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated in the garrison town of Rawalpindi, headquarters of the Pakistan Army.
According to reports, paramilitary forces have been put on alert on the Indo-Pak border.
Emerging reports suggest that it was a combined and gun and suicide bomb attack that managed to successfully target Benazir, with the popular leader being declared dead by doctors at a Rawalpindi hospital at 6.16 pm.
Benazir Bhutto was 54.
Ms Bhutto was declared dead by doctors after they failed to revive her after a 35-minute struggle. According to reports, doctors said that she had shrapnel injuries. Initial reports also suggest that upwards of a dozen people have perished along with Benazir.
Eyewitness accounts at Liaqat Bagh, a park that is a popular venue for political rallies, in this garrison town, say that a suicide bomber first fired shots at Bhutto as she was leaving the venue, before blowing himself up. The nature and extent of her injuries vary according to reports, with some saying that she had gunshot injuries apart from shrapnel. Other reports suggest that she ducked when the assassin fired at her.
At a personal level, her death also brings the tortured history of a top political family from the Indian sub-continent, to a tragic end, almost matching the contours of a high-strung Greek drama.
Her father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, was himself a former prime minister of Pakistan. The eldest child, Benazir was followed by Murtaza, a younger sister Sanam and then the youngest sibling, Shahnawaz Bhutto. Her mother, Nusrat, was of Iranian extraction.
Then military dictator Gen Zia-ul-Haq hanged Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Both the brothers perished in tragic and mysterious circumstances, with Murtaza being shot and killed during an altercation with the police in the city of Karachi in 1996. Critics have always said that his death was at the behest of Benazir Bhutto and/or her husband Asif Ali Zardari.
Her youngest brother, the 27-year-old Shahnawaz was found dead in his French Riviera apartment in Nice on 18th July 1985. He may have perished of drug abuse, but the Bhutto family always insisted that he was murdered by poisoning. No one was ever brought to trial for his murder.
Shahnawaz was believed to have helped organize a group dedicated to overthrowing the regime of president Zia ul-Haq, through links to Al-Zulfiqar, which was becoming increasingly active in Pakistan at that time.
Her death brings to a close the tortured meanderings of a political family that rivals other great political families such as the Gandhi's in India and the Kennedy's in America in terms of their glamour, and also their tragic history.
People in India, from a certain generation, would remember a tall willowy girl accompanying her father, Zulfiqar to the hill resort of Simla to arrive at an agreement with victorious Indian leader Indira Gandhi. These talks ultimately got enshrined as the Simla Agreement.
The willowy girl soon blossomed into a handsome woman of commanding presence, who battled through the personal tragedy of her father's terrible death, virtually a legalised execution.
The death of her youngest brother, Shahnawaz, followed and inheriting her father's political legacy, soon she fought her way to the country's premiership. She became the first woman prime minister in the Muslim world in 1988, at the age of 35.
More tragedy followed, however, with the death of her brother Murtaza and then with a turn in her personal fortunes, the long incarceration of her husband, Zardari. She was now the face of a mother who was trying to keep her family life intact, even as she struggled to maintain her party's fortunes, and also the aspirations of her people.
Her recent return from exile was the last chapter in a controversial and tragic career, with people nursing the suspicion that she had arrived at an understanding with the current military dictator, Gen Pervez Musharraf.
Her arrival at the port town of Karachi, her political home base, saw suicide bombers targeting her procession and killing over 170 people. Even though she escaped the well-planned assassination attempt, in hindsight it would appear that the fate of her father and brothers would also visit her.
Today, Pakistan is well and truly at the crossroads.