Authorities had urged Bhutto to use a helicopter to reduce the risk of attack amid threats from extremists sympathetic to the Taliban and al-Qaida, but she brushed off the concerns. “I am not scared. I am thinking of my mission,” she had told reporters on the plane from Dubai. “This is a movement for democracy because we are under threat from extremists and militants.” Last month, Bhutto told CNN she realized she was a target. Islamic militants, she said, “don’t believe in women governing nations, so they will try to plot against me, but these are risks that must be taken. I’m prepared to take them.” Leaving the airport, Bhutto refused to use a bulletproof glass cubicle that had been built atop the truck taking her to the tomb of Pakistan’s founding father, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, to give a speech. She squeezed between other party officials along a railing at the front and rode high above the street. Her procession had been creeping toward the center of Karachi for 10 hours, moving at a snail’s pace while dancing and cheering supporters swarmed around the truck, when a small explosion erupted near the front of the vehicle. That was quickly followed by a larger blast just a few feet from the truck, setting an escorting police van on fire and breaking windows in Bhutto’s vehicle. Party members on top of the truck scrambled to the ground, one man jumping while others climbed down a ladder or over the side. Christina Lamb, Bhutto’s biographer, said the former premier had just gone to a downstairs compartment in the truck for a rest when the blast went off. “She knew she was a target, I was talking to her about it …. she was worried that the lights were going off, the street lights, and that snipers could be on tops of buildings and bridges,” Lamb told Sky News. “Luckily the bus had a downstairs enclosed compartment for her to go and rest in, and she just happened to be there when it went off, so she wasn’t on top in the open like the rest of us, so that just saved her.” “Evidence available at the scene is suggesting it was a suicide bombing (that) exploded near police vehicles, destroying the two police vans escorting Benazir Bhutto’s truck,” police officer Raja Umer Khitab said. He said several policemen died. At the scene of the attack, bodies lay motionless in the street, under a mural reading “Long Live Bhutto” on the side of the truck. “People were shouting for help but there was no one to help them out. It smelled like blood and smoke,” said AP photographer B.K. Bangash, who was 150 feet from Bhutto’s truck when he heard a small blast just before midnight. The bombs exploded just after the truck crossed a bridge about halfway on the 10-mile journey from the airport to the tomb. Pools of blood, broken glass, tires, motorcycles and bits of clothing littered the ground. Men carried the injured away from burning cars. One bystander came upon a body, checked for signs of life, and moved on. Some of the injured were rushed into a hospital emergency room on stretchers, and others were carried in rescuers’ arms. Many of the wounded were covered in blood, and some had their clothes ripped off. Karachi has a history of violent attacks by Islamic militants, but Thursday’s was believed to be the deadliest. In 2006, a suicide bombing killed 57 people, including the leaders of a Sunni Muslim group. The United States condemned “the violent attack in Pakistan and mourns the loss of innocent life there,” said Gordon Johndroe, foreign affairs spokesman for President Bush. “Extremists will not be allowed to stop Pakistanis from selecting their representatives through an open and democratic process.” “Bhutto had paved her route back to Pakistan through negotiations with Musharraf, a longtime political rival whose rule she has often condemned but whose proclaimed mission to defeat Islamic extremism she shares. The talks yielded an amnesty covering the corruption charges that made Bhutto leave Pakistan, and could lead to a political alliance uniting moderates in parliamentary elections for a fight against militants allied with al-Qaida and the Taliban. U.S. officials are believed to still favor Musharraf, despite his sagging popularity, over Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, the elected premier ousted by the general in a 1999 coup and sent back into exile when he tried to return last month. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! By Matthew Pennington and Paisley Dodds THE ASSOCIATED PRESS KARACHI, Pakistan – A suicide bombing in a crowd welcoming former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto killed at least 126 people Thursday night, shattering her celebratory procession through Pakistan’s biggest city after eight years in exile. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.Two explosions went off near a truck carrying Bhutto, but police and officials of her party said she was not injured and was hurried to her house. Officials at six hospitals in Karachi reported 126 dead and 248 wounded. It was believed to be the deadliest bomb attack in Pakistan’s history. Bhutto flew home to lead her Pakistan People’s Party in January parliamentary elections, drawing cheers from supporters massed in a sea of the party’s red, green and black flags. The police chief said 150,000 were in the streets, while other onlookers estimated twice that. The throngs reflected Bhutto’s enduring political clout, but she has made enemies of Islamic militants by taking a pro-U.S. line and negotiating a possible political alliance with Pakistan’s military ruler, President Gen. Pervez Musharraf. An estimated 20,000 security officers had been deployed to protect Bhutto and her cavalcade of motorized rickshaws, colorful buses, cars and motorcycles.