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THE SITUATION ROOM

Benazir Bhutto Assassinated; New Developments in Zoo Mauling Case

Aired December 27, 2007 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Republican Mike Huckabee is doing something that presidential candidates don't normally do -- charge speaking fees. A spokeswoman confirmed the former Arkansas governor gave two or three paid speeches last month and plans to give several more in February. It's unusual, but apparently not illegal. And the Huckabee camp says because the candidate is not a current office holder, he needs the money.
Remember, for the latest political news at any time, check out our political ticker, at CNN.com/ticker.

Happening now, Pakistan reeling with the assassination of the former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto. The U.S. scrambling to deal with major implications for the war on terror. And in a stunning twist, Bhutto herself lays blame in an e-mail she wanted me to show the world if she were killed.

That murder is thrusting foreign policy to the front of the campaign stage right now. All the presidential candidates are reacting to Bhutto's assassination. This hour we'll hear from Joe Biden and Rudy Giuliani.

Plus, new developments in that deadly tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo. New reports that the protective wall may not have been up to code.

I'm Wolf Blitzer

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Shock waves from a political murder reverberating right now around the world. The former Pakistani prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, assassinated as she left a rally in Rawalpindi. The U.S. is gravely concerned for multiple reasons. Pakistan is a key ally in the war on terror, but also believed to be where Osama bin Laden is hiding out and thriving -- with both Al Qaeda and the Taliban making a comeback. Plus, Pakistan is a Muslim country and with nuclear weapons, making instability there very troubling.

Here are some of the latest developments in the aftermath of the Bhutto assassination.

Pakistan's government has declared three days of mourning, with schools businesses and banks closed. Bhutto's funeral will be held tomorrow. Her coffin is being taken right now to her ancestral burial ground, accompanied by her husband and children. In the wake of her murder, Pakistan's other leading opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, has announced his party will boycott parliamentary elections scheduled for next month.

No one has claimed responsibility for the assassination, but Benazir Bhutto knew her life was in danger and laid blame in advance in an e-mail she asked her American spokesman to share with me and the world in the event of her assassination.

This is a CNN exclusive.

Bhutto wrote -- and I'm quoting now: "Nothing will, God willing happen. Just wanted you to know if it does, in addition to the names in my letter to Musharraf of October 16th, I would hold Musharraf responsible. I have been made to feel insecure by his minions and there is no way what is happening, in terms of stopping me from taking private cars or using tinted windows or giving jammers or four police mobiles to cover all sides could happen without him.

Pakistan's ambassador to the United States rejected that right here in THE SITUATION ROOM in the last hour.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHMUD ALI DURRANI, PAKISTAN AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: I think the government of Pakistan provided her all the security that was necessary. Now you tell me even with a jammer or tinted windows, the way she was hit -- she would have been hit with tinted windows or without tinted windows or without the IEDs. No IED was used. No use of tinted windows.

So it's just a blame game. And the problem with this blame game, to my fear, is that the real culprits are going to get away. It is the extremists and terrorists that have been after her, that have been after Musharraf. It's the same terrorists.

In fact, I find a lot of commonality between Benazir and Musharraf. They are both for democracy and they are both very, very liberal people. And Musharraf tried his best, but the circumstances under which he moved -- and Mr. Siegel also mentioned -- to touch her (INAUDIBLE) to touch her. So that was a problem when she was moving almost in a sea of humanity. So this -- this -- no system in the world can protect you against that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: There's rioting right now in Pakistan, where many are outraged at the death of this woman, seen as a champion for democracy. The Bhutto assassination is a blow to them and to the stability the U.S. hoped for in that part of the world.

Let's go to our State Department correspondent, Zain Verjee.

She recently was in Pakistan covering the violence that was unfolding then -- Zain, what are you picking up in these hours since Benazir Bhutto's assassination? ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the message from the U.S. is that it's important that Pakistan stay committed to the path of democracy. But one massive crisis after the other is pushing Pakistan to the brink.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE (voice-over): She was an open target. This time the assassins hit their mark. Pakistan is in shock and mourning -- riots breaking out in cities across the country.

Just weeks ago in Pakistan, I asked Benazir Bhutto if she knows the dangers, why take the risk?

BENAZIR BHUTTO, FORMER PAKISTANI PRIME MINISTER: I'm taking the risk and facing the dangers in my country because I believe that all the children of Pakistan are as dear to me as my own children.

VERJEE: Her death leaves a leadership vacuum in Pakistan and throws elections next month into question. Analysts say they would be meaningless without her.

The State Department says Pakistan needs to stay on track.

SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: It would be a victory for no one but the extremists responsible for this attack to have some kind of postponement or delay directly related to it in the democratic process.

VERJEE: Her death is a major blow for Pakistanis and the U.S., who saw her as a champion for democracy in Pakistan.

BHUTTO: Well, I believe that democracy is the only way that can save Pakistan. And I believe that it's the free expression of the will of the people, mobilizing the strength of the people that can save our country.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

VERJEE: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said today that the U.S. wants leaders in Pakistan willing to maintain calm, Wolf, and work together to build a more moderate and peaceful democratic future. There are also concerns, Wolf, that President Musharraf could declare another state of emergency if the violence gets out of hand. But that's really yet to be seen.

And, Wolf, I was actually really interested -- and I wanted to follow up with you on the exclusive e-mail that you receive from Benazir Bhutto and predicting her own death.

How did that come to you?

BLITZER: Well, it was very eerie, because I remember vividly Mark Siegel, a long time friend of hers, one of her consultants, advisers, a U.S. spokesman who had worked with her for many years, including when she was the prime minister of Pakistan, a friend of hers for 25 years. And he got this e-mail from her back on October 26th. And he sent to it me, saying she wanted me to have it, but I couldn't share it with anyone unless she were killed. If she were killed, she wanted the world to know of her concern about President Musharraf.

And so, obviously, I honored that request. This morning, once we all learned the shocking news about Benazir Bhutto, I spoke with Mark Siegel. And, you know, he said yes, you can definitely report that based on the commitments that she had made and he had made and what I knew about it. So we've reported it now and her concern that she wasn't getting the kind of security, Zain, that she should have been getting, at least according to her and her supporters.

You were there. You were with her, Zain.

Did it look -- when she was out on the campaign trail, when she was speaking to her supporters -- that she was well protected?

VERJEE: It did. And when we talked to her some of her party officials, they said at the time that they were getting the kind of adequate security that they had requested. I mean when we were there outside her house, she was under house arrest. She wasn't, first of all, being even allowed to move about and campaign at all. But they did say that she was in a bulletproof car. She was in a car with tinted windows. I was there. I saw it myself. I mean, obviously, issues about her own security detail and what she was and was not getting is a matter of controversy.

But when I met her and in the interview that we had she was very graceful, very eloquent and very well-spoken. And she spoke very affectionately of you, Wolf, and said that she had known you for many years.

And she was one of the most charismatic political leaders of Pakistan. And, certainly, her last name, Bhutto, many have said is the equivalent of the Kennedys here in the United States. So the kind of impact this has in Pakistan would be the same as if a Kennedy had died.

BLITZER: A truly shocking, shocking development. This woman in the Muslim world, revered by so many of her supporters, now dead.

We're going to stay on top of this story.

Zain, thank you very much.

We're also learning new details about how the assassination happened. Benazir Bhutto was leaving a political rally in the City of Rawalpindi.

Deborah Feyerick is here.

She's watching all of this unfold.

So you've got the process.

How did this tragedy unfold -- Deborah? DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what we can tell you, first of all, is that this was the second attack on the former prime minister's life. The first attack back in October when she returned to Pakistan. She narrowly escaped. But people were killed then during a devastating blast, which was also aimed at her motorcade.

Now, this particular rally was actually supposed to happen back in November. But at the time, Pakistani officials canceled it, citing security fears.

Here's how it sadly played out today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK (voice-over): It happened at the end of a campaign rally in Rawalpindi, just before 5:00 p.m. Pakistani time. Benazir Bhutto, done addressing thousands of supporters, stepped into a heavily armored white SUV. As she left, supporters surrounded the vehicle, cheering the popular opposition leader. She emerged through the sunroof, waving. That's when it happened.

Keep in mind, early eyewitness accounts vary. But according to one of Bhutto's top aides standing 10 yards from the vehicle, as the car made its way out of the park, he tells the Associated Press: "I saw a thin young man jumping to her vehicle from the back and opening fire."

A Bhutto security adviser also quoted in the A.P. says: "Bhutto was shot in the neck and chest by the attacker, who then blew himself up."

John Moore, a photographer with Getty Images, was just yards away.

JOHN MOORE, GETTY IMAGES: I turned around and heard three shots go off and saw her go down -- fall down through the sunroof down into the car.

FEYERICK: Bhutto was rushed to Rawalpindi General Hospital, less than two miles away. Surgeons tried to save her. One doctor on the team tells the Associated Press Bhutto was given an open heart massage in a desperate attempt to save her life. The doctor, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a bullet pierced Bhutto's neck, damaging her spinal cord, before exiting the side of her head. Another bullet pierced the back of Bhutto's shoulder and came out through her chest.

TARIQ AZIM KHAN, FORMER PAKISTANI INFORMATION MINISTER: Sadly, I have to confirm that the former prime minister, Bhutto, she has died.

FEYERICK: She died about an hour after the attack, at 6:16 Islamabad time. An interior ministry spokesman said the cause of death was the bullet wound in the neck.

A report on GEO TV says Benazir Bhutto's final word was "Allah."

(END VIDEO TAPE)

FEYERICK: Now, as word of her death spread, President Pervez Musharraf convened an emergency meeting with his senior staff, soon after going on TV and blaming the attack on Islamic extremists.

Twenty others were also killed and more than 50 injured.

Benazir Bhutto leaves behind three young children and her husband, who issued a statement saying we're devastated -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Deb Feyerick, for that.

President Bush had a brief phone conversation about the assassination with the Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf. A White House spokesman saying he has no details of the conversation.

Earlier, Mr. Bush offered condolences to Bhutto's family and to the Pakistani people. He urged them to honor her memory by continuing with the democratic process and he condemned the killing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States strongly condemns this cowardly act by murderous extremists who are trying to undermine Pakistan's democracy. Those whop committed this crime must be brought to just.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And joining us now on the phone, the former congressman, Patrick Kennedy.

He is in Islamabad right now.

Congressman, thanks very much for spending a few moments with us.

First of all, what are you doing in Islamabad?

REP. PATRICK KENNEDY (D), RHODE ISLAND: Well, as you know, Wolf, the elections are coming up January 8th. And I'm traveling with Senator Specter to take assessment of the elections and also Pakistan's role in the fight against terror.

Today we had a meeting with President Musharraf and, also, President Karzai from Afghanistan, who was also here in Islamabad, working with the Pakistanis to shore up the support of Pakistan in the fight against the Taliban -- the very extremists that are also being suspected of having a hand in tonight's terrible tragedy of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

You know, Senator Specter and myself were meeting with President Musharraf and tomorrow with the former prime minister, Sharif. And tonight we were going to have dinner -- tragically, you know, we were on our way, in fact, to having dinner -- about to leave the hotel to have dinner with Benazir Bhutto, when we got the word that she had been taken to the hospital after the suicide bombing. And we had just sat next -- by the TV, waiting word as to her condition and, obviously, heard the tragic final news of her passing. It was a very, you know, upsetting experience, to say the least...

BLITZER: I can only imagine.

KENNEDY: ...that we had come all the way over to hear about the hopeful news of a new democracy in Pakistan to see this whole country now blow up, essentially, in flames because people now are worried about its future is really upsetting.

BLITZER: Congressman -- and I inadvertently called you former Congressman. I know you're a sitting member of Congress and I want to apologize for that.

Are you worried, though, based on -- you're in Islamabad, the capital of Rawalpindi, a military garrison not very far away.

Are you worried -- is Senator Specter worried about your own security right now given the unpredictability of this crisis?

KENNEDY: We were in Rawalpindi earlier today meeting with General Majid, who is the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. We were actually in the site where the bombing took place just a few hours before the rally. And, you know, the security in Islamabad is really -- is mostly much better than it is in most of the rest of the country, by all accounts. But, you know, clearly there's no guarantee no matter where you are, if you're a political figure, especially in this part of the world, and you're exposed to so many people.

I mean just today, we met with, as I said, Karzai, Musharraf and we were to meet with, you know, Benazir Bhutto. All three of them have been subject to major assassination attempts in the last year -- not only one, but two or three, in the case of both Bhutto and Karzai and Musharraf. This is some of thing -- of almost a fact of life over here. And it's really a tragedy to think that this is something that politicians have to face on a daily basis over here in this part of the world.

BLITZER: It's a sad story. Unfortunately, it was all very, very predictable, what happened to Benazir Bhutto. But it's still tragic and extremely sad, nevertheless.

Be careful over there. Congressman Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island.

Please also pass along our best to Senator Specter. Tell him to be careful, as well.

KENNEDY: Thank you.

BLITZER: We'll speak to you back here in the United States when you get back.

We're following all the angles of this major breaking news story. Questions are swirling today about the security surrounding Benazir Bhutto, why it failed. We'll talk with some experts who will show us -- will show us exactly how she was left vulnerable to an attack.

Also, we're following other news, including questions about the barriers that were supposed to protect visitors from a tiger attack at that San Francisco Zoo.

Lots of news happening right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The shock waves from Benazir Bhutto's assassination are being felt out on the presidential campaign trail. Her murder is having major implications for the war on terror and for U.S. foreign policy. All the candidates are reacting.

Joining us now by phone, Democratic Senator Joe Biden. He's the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. He's known Benazir Bhutto for a long time.

And a very, very sad day Senator Biden.

But I know one of your advisers -- one of your staffers is in Pakistan right now and met with her, what, only last night?

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, last night -- the night before she was assassinated -- and had a long interview and conversation with her, where she had some specific requests of me and some other things. And, you know, I had become a friend of hers, like many other people here. And...

BLITZER: Did you get an indication from your aide that she was still worried about her security?

BIDEN: No. She was worried about her security. That's why, after she went back the first time, in the first (INAUDIBLE) after extensive discussions with her, I sent Bhutto -- I sent Musharraf a very long letter laying out specific requests relating to security, from vehicles to equipment -- none of which occurred -- laying out why he had an obligation to provide these and suggesting to the administration that we help in providing this, because as you said earlier on your show, this was predictable, there would be another attempt.

But according to the e-mail I've received from Peter is that -- I mean from Ed -- excuse me -- was that she was extremely optimistic. She believed, as I do, that the vast majority of the Pakistanis are nonsectarian, as well as moderate. And she was very optimistic that if there was anyone approaching a transparent election, that she would win. And I believe she would have won a majority.

BLITZER: You and Senator Lieberman, Senator Patrick Leahy, you wrote a letter to President Musharraf a couple of months ago -- October 24th, I think -- in which you appealed for greater security for Benazir Bhutto.

Did you ever get a response from the Pakistani leader? BIDEN: Well, I got a verbal response in my personal discussions with Musharraf. I got lip service. But, to the best of my knowledge and based on what I got from the Bhutto camp, none of the specific things that we called for -- from jamming equipment for roadside bombs to government provided (AUDIO GAP). None of those things occurred. I can't say with certainly, Wolf, had they been in place that (AUDIO GAP) wouldn't have happened. But I believe it would have increased significantly her being alive today. But I can't prove that. I don't know that for a fact.

BLITZER: I want to get your quick reaction -- you're getting -- you're in and out of your audio.

But Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico -- also running for the Democratic presidential nomination -- he issued a statement today saying: "President Bush should press Musharraf to step aside and a broad-based coalition government consisting of all the democratic parties should be formed immediately. Until this happens, we should suspend military aid to the Pakistani government."

Do you agree with Bill Richardson?

BIDEN: No, I don't. That wish -- that's like Bill originally saying he would bring home all the troops from Iraq in three months. It is not practical. The most important thing to happen now is two things. One, that these elections go forward, they be open and transparent. The administration made clear to Musharraf (INAUDIBLE) that there be severe consequences to do that. And, two, that there should be an open, transparent investigation (AUDIO GAP) as the president called for, but we offer the forensic services of the FBI and other forensic capability we have to engage in that investigation to determine who is responsible for this.

And if he doesn't accept that offer, it would be somewhat incriminating.

I don't know who did this. Everybody starts talking about (AUDIO GAP) either their -- their intelligence forces, who had reason not to like her or where did it come from?

We don't know.

BLITZER: A lot of unanswered questions.

Senator Biden, thanks very much.

We didn't have a great connection, but we certainly understood what you were saying.

Joe Biden out on the campaign trail, spending a few moments with us, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Was Benazir Bhutto an easy target for her assassins?

We'll talk to experts. They'll show us how her security failed and what procedures should have been in place. And Barack Obama's campaign had some tough words for Hillary Clinton today over the assassination. We're going to show you what one official said that's raising eyebrows.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, U.S.-led coalition forces killed an estimated 11 fighters from a Shiite splinter group south of Baghdad. The military calls them terrorists and says they opened up on coalition forces with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. The coalition forces returned fire and called in supportive aircraft.

Rescuers in Indonesia braved torrential rains -- sometimes digging with bare hands -- to reach victims of devastating landslides. At least 87 bodies have been found. Thousands of villagers have been forced to flee from their homes.

And a post-Christmas scuffle in Bethlehem. Greek Orthodox and Armenian clergymen come to blows while cleaning up after services at the history Church of the Nativity.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're following the major breaking news out of Pakistan -- the assassination of the former Pakistani prime minister, Benazir Bhutto.

Take a look at this chilling photo, taken just moments before she was killed. You can see Benazir Bhutto standing in the sunroof of her vehicle as she left a political rally full of cheering supporters. The photographer, John Moore, captured the shot for Getty Images and witnessed what happened seconds later.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOORE: The vehicle was moving very slowly because the crowd was all around and it was pushing through. She clearly wanted to get close to her people. I was very surprised that she was coming out of the sunroof of this car, considering what happened in Karachi a while back.

And I had been photographing her pushing through the crowd. And the vehicle sort of surged forward and I got out of the way and moved up a little bit ahead of it. And suddenly -- well, I turned around and heard three shots go off and saw her go down and fall down through the sunroof down into the car.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Attention is focusing in now on the security surrounding Benazir Bhutto. With so many threats and previous attempts on her life, how was this able to happen? Let's go to Carol Costello. She is watching this story for us. You have been speaking with security experts, Carol. What are they saying?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know Wolf, they're just sort of shaking their heads. It did not have to be. As far as who was to blame, well, that's not so black and white. Yes, security could have been better but it is tough to protect someone trying to get votes.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: From the moment Benazir Bhutto went back to Pakistan she became a target. And she knew it, telling CNN she knew she was risking her life. Yet, security experts say she exposed herself, as many candidates running for office do, allowing people close enough to touch her. She needed that political money shot.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, FORMER ACTING CIA DIRECTOR: I just think we have to bear in mind how difficult it is to protect people in an environment like this particularly if the protected party does not stay inside that security bubble that's created by security people.

COSTELLO: As Bhutto spoke in a city park, Pakistani officials told us she was surrounded by personal and government security, a detail as big as President Musharraf's. At this point, the crowd around her was under control. But when she left the podium, that began to change. You can see a man reaching out for her, being restrained. Just before Bhutto gets into her vehicle, the crowd around her grows.

KEN ROBINSON, TERRORISM EXPERT: There is no crowd control where there's no way to discern between those who are in her security service and just the general public. It is very hard for anyone trying to protect her to sort out who the threats are.

COSTELLO: Then according to Robinson, Bhutto's security failed to protect her as the candidate was getting into her car, allowing her to be exposed to the crowd.

ROBINSON: You just don't do it. From a security standpoint, you would have wanted to have had that car covered and not have anyone around it.

COSTELLO: The pictures do show Bhutto's vehicle was only partially armored, not fully equipped to withstand most explosive attacks.

ROBINSON: They simply don't use them because the candidate then looks like they are hiding.

COSTELLO: And Bhutto clearly wasn't. You can see her vehicle had a sunroof. It is something you will never see used in the United States because of what happened to President Kennedy. ROBINSON: They got rid of the bubble. They got rid of those open cars in the United States based on the loss of that president.

COSTELLO: And what happened to President Kennedy happened to Bhutto. As she waved to the crowd through that sunroof, a gunman shot her in the neck and then blew himself up. Bhutto died in a Pakistani hospital two miles away.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: Oddly enough the park where Bhutto was speaking was for named Pakistan's first prime minister. He himself was assassinated there in 1951. As one security analyst told me, Bhutto knew the risks. She wanted to be in the game. She jumped in and now she has immortality. Wolf?

BLITZER: Thank you, Carol Costello for that.

And as Carol just said, Benazir Bhutto was fully aware of the danger she faced returning to Pakistan after eight years in exile. She joined me in THE SITUATION ROOM only three months ago to talk about that and said she was prepared to take those risks.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: You are a relatively young woman. How scared are you though? Because as you know, Osama Bin Laden and other terrorists, they've attacked you in the past and they clearly would like to go after you now.

BENAZIR BHUTTO, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF PAKISTAN: Yes, of course they would like to go against me. There is a lot of threats because under military dictatorship and an archaic situation has developed with risks and Osama have exploited. They don't want democracy and they don't want me back.

BLITZER: They don't want a woman to be the prime minister of Pakistan either.

BHUTTO: And they don't believe in women governing nations. They will try to plot against me. These are risks that must be taken. I'm prepared to take them.

BLITZER: Your family had a history unfortunately, a tragic history of assassinations.

BHUTTO: I know the past has been tragic but I'm an optimist by nature. I put my faith in the people of Pakistan. I put my faith in god. I feel what I am doing is for a good cause, for a right cause, to save Pakistan from extremists and militants and to build regional security. I know the dangers are there but I'm prepared to take those risks.

My father was killed. It was a very terrible moment in my life but I also learned from him that one has to stand up for the principles they believe in. I am standing up important the principle democracy. I'm standing up for moderation and I'm standing up for hope for all the people in Pakistan who today are poor and miserable and really quite desperate.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: The late Benazir Bhutto speaking with me in THE SITUATION ROOM only three months ago.

Benazir Bhutto's assassination puts the terrorism issue back on the U.S. presidential campaign's front burner. Barack Obama's chief strategist seems to be including Hillary Clinton on the list of who is to blame for Bhutto's killing, hitting Hillary Clinton over it. We have the lowdown on this brand-new controversy that's unfolding right now.

And Rudy Giuliani's city was also a terrorist target. You are going to want to hear our conversation about the implications of the Bhutto assassination. You will hear how he would treat Pakistan if he were elected president. My interview with Rudy Giuliani and a lot more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The assassination of Benazir Bhutto has many Pakistanis reeling and seething with outrage and lashing out. Earlier I spoke with former CNN senior international correspondent Walter Rodgers who is in Lahore, Pakistan right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WALTER RODGERS, FORMER CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think this country is in a state of shock, Wolf. First there was shock, then there was anger and then there was this mental climate of frenzy as people took to the streets in all the major cities. But here in Lahore where I am there were burning cars and their anger was directed at the most visible symbols of authority. They went out and they tore down all the campaign posters of Mr. Musharraf's party, the PML party. They went out and tore all those down and then they started burning automobiles. Anything that smacked of being a symbol of the current government of President Musharraf, they went out and struck at. That's not to suggest for a second that Musharraf was behind the assassination but the anger was so irrational that they just lashed out across the country.

BLITZER: In Lahore where you are, which is a relatively peaceful city, that doesn't have a whole lot of history of this kind of political violence or terrorism, give us a little bit more flavor of the shock that you are feeling, the people of Pakistan, Walter, are feeling.

RODGERS: I think what you have to realize is how very disheartening this was. As you were saying a few moments ago, Wolf, this upcoming election, January 8th, may have been the last best chance that Pakistan had towards nudging itself towards democracy. Now there does not appear anyone present who will chart the course. Now what happened is Mrs. Bhutto was or Miss Bhutto was trying desperately to get herself elected prime minister so that she could reign in the extremists, reign in the religious extremists and what she called the terrorists. And she had just spoken at a rally in Rawalpindi where she lashed out at these people. When she left that rally, was going to her automobile and someone came up on a bicycle or motor bike, rammed it. There was an explosion. The news sources here in Pakistan are saying she died of a bullet in the neck. We don't know if there was really a bullet or it could have been a steel ball bearing in a suicide bomber's belt.

In any event, this country is now I don't want to say rudderless but it is hastening along a road of great uncertainty and more than a few commentators will start talking about the disassembling of this country and slide into chaos.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Walter Rodgers speaking with us from Lahore, Pakistan just a little while ago.

Benazir Bhutto's assassination brought swift condemnations from both parties, presidential candidates, including Senator Barack Obama. But a late afternoon controversy surfaced after Obama's chief strategist said some pretty controversial words.

Let's go to our Jessica Yellin. She is out on the campaign trail watching this and other stories unfold for us. What's the latest, Jessica?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf you know for months, Senator Clinton has made the case that her foreign policy experience makes her the strongest democratic candidate in the field. Well today Senator Barack Obama's senior strategist, David Axelrod, turned Senator Clinton's foreign policy background against her suggesting that her vote on Iraq perhaps has a link to Benazir Bhutto's death today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA STRATEGIST: I think people need to judge where these candidates were and what they've said and what they've done on these issues. I mean she was a strong supporter of the war in Iraq, which we would submit is one of the reasons why we were diverted from Afghanistan, Pakistan, al Qaeda, who may have been players in this event today. So that's a judgment she will have to defend.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: Now, when asked directly whether he meant to suggest that Senator Clinton was somehow responsible for Benazir Bhutto's death, David Axelrod said to me, "I certainly wasn't suggesting Senator Clinton was complicit. She made a bad judgment on this war and the war helped exacerbate problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan and that's certainly something I would stand by." The Clinton campaign not surprisingly had a fierce reaction saying. "This is a time to be focused on the tragedy of the situation. No one should be politicizing the situation with what they call baseless allegations."

Now all this came, Wolf, on the very same day that Barack Obama was delivering his newly honed closing argument in these final days to the caucuses and he made the claim that he is the only candidate on the trail, the only democrat, who will end this divisiveness in Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In seven days, you have a chance once again to prove the cynics wrong. In seven days, what was improbable has a chance to beat what Washington said was inevitable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: And what is improbable, of course, is Barack Obama's campaign. He claims he has done it in a positive way. He insists without Washington lobbyists' money, he is different. He is a change he insists and he told the audience, if they vote for him, they will change history. Wolf?

BLITZER: Jessica Yellin out of the campaign trail; the fallout significant out there. Thank you very much.

Meanwhile, other important news we are following including some new developments in that deadly tiger attack over at the San Francisco Zoo. Was it a tragedy just waiting to happen? We have details from new reports the protective wall may not have been up to code.

Plus, President Bush is monitoring the breaking news. We are following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. He is at the ranch in Crawford, Texas. We are going to go there live.

Stay with us. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The Benazir Bhutto assassination has major implications for the U.S. war on terror with Pakistan a key but worrisome ally. It is a huge topic on the campaign trail.

And joining us now, the former mayor of New York, the republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani. Mayor, thanks very much for joining us; shocking news out of Pakistan, clearly with enormous ramifications for the United States, not only in that part of the world but in the war on terror given Pakistan's role since 9/11 and in cooperating with the U.S. since then. What's your immediate reaction to what has happened, the assassination of the former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto?

RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, my reaction is, first of all, just shock and dismay that this happened and my condolences to Mrs. Bhutto, her family and all the people of Pakistan and they are in our prayers.

The reality is that this is - this appears to be an attempt to destabilize Pakistan. And it appears to be coming from the Islamic terrorists. And in many ways, we are in this effort together. We have been -- we have been victimized by Islamic terrorists. Other parts of the world have, other countries.

So America should be there to help Pakistan achieve the following objective. First of all, immediate stability as best as can happen and finding the people who did this and doing everything that we can to make sure that this does not derail Pakistan from moving more towards democracy. You know, that's what Benazir Bhutto is attempting -- was attempting to do. Let's see if we can stop them in their efforts to destabilize and in their efforts to derail democracy.

BLITZER: Do you have confidence that President Pervez Musharraf will do this? That he's the man, the leader, who can get this done?

GIULIANI: He said the right words today. But I think we have to carefully look at all of this. Our objective is here no one person. Our objective here is a stable Pakistan that will move toward democracy. And the big objective here would seem to me and I am speaking from the outside, not from the inside. People on the inside might have a somewhat different view of this. You have to re- establish trust between the civilian leadership and the military because they, hopefully, will stand against the efforts of the terrorists who destabilize Pakistan.

I think at this point it would not be a good time to make any rash statements. I think works from the inside to make sure the stability is restored in Pakistan and it moves back towards democracy.

BLITZER: As you know, since 9/11, the U.S. provided the Pakistani military about $10 billion in assistance. But only the other day there were reports suggesting that maybe half of that $5 billion that they didn't have the proper accounting, that the money was not necessarily going to the elements that were supposed to be using it in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, the number two, Ayman al- Zawahiri. Is that money well spent? Should the U.S. continue to be providing billions to the Pakistani military?

GIULIANI: I have thought for some time and this is not necessarily the reaction to this terrible assassination and that the -- increase its commitment in Afghanistan. And that we should redouble our efforts, make sure that al Qaeda, the Taliban, don't re- emerge there in any strong force. And also, re-energize our efforts to catch Bin Laden which to me is more than a symbolic act. It is something that would be a real strategic advantage for us in bringing him to justice.

And I don't want to just have a reaction just to this incident and this terrible assassination because I think we need to know more about it. If you are asking me, long term I have felt that we should have more of a commitment to Afghanistan, a direct commitment by the United States in terms of military and that we shouldn't take our - we shouldn't take any focus away from that in achieving stability there on the border and in making sure that the Taliban and al Qaeda don't re-emerge in any kind of big way. And also, to catch Bin Laden. That should be major objective of our country and if we need to put more people in Afghanistan to do that, we should.

BLITZER: Basically for now, keep the money flowing, make sure that the Pakistani military is getting these funds from the United States to try to do what you are recommending, finding Osama Bin Laden and crushing al Qaeda.

GIULIANI: And increasing our commitment to Afghanistan, to the forces in Afghanistan because that -- you know, that's something that even independent of this incident, you should be doing and as far as dealing with this, this has to be done in a very delicate way within the administration. There are very difficult choices here. And I wouldn't want to be the one to second-guess them. But the objective has to be stability in Pakistan first and then right back on track towards democracy as quickly as possible.

BLITZER: Mayor, thanks very much for spending a few moments with us. Appreciate it.

GIULIANI: Thank you.

BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring some other important stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM. What's going on?

COSTELLO: Thanks, Wolf. For millions of Americans counting on an early tax refund, be warned the money could be up to two months late. That's because congress waited until the end of this year's session to fix a problem with the alternative minimum tax. The IRS now says it won't be able to start processing forms until February, delaying potential refunds for early filers. Congress froze the AMT to prevent middle income taxpayers getting hit by a tax meant for the rich.

Oil prices are hitting a one-month high today. Crude for February delivery rose 65 cents to settle at $96.62 a barrel in New York. Now despite this cause by geopolitical concerns over the assassination of Pakistan's Benazir Bhutto, plus a sixth straight weekly decline in U.S. crude and heating oil supplies.

That's a look at the headlines right now, Wolf.

BLITZER: Carol, thanks very much; Carol Costello reporting.

Did the San Francisco Zoo leave visitors vulnerable to attack? We are going to take a closer look at the wall that was supposed to keep that tiger in her enclosure.

Also, more on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. It's having serious implications for U.S. relationship with Pakistan. We have details of what President Bush is saying and doing.

Stay with us. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The San Francisco Zoo is downplaying reports the victims in that deadly tiger attack may have taunted the animal before she escaped her enclosure. But there are new concerns about the wall that was supposed to protect visitors from the tigers. Let's go out to CNN's Dan Simon. He's on the scene for us. Dan, what are officials there saying today?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. It turns out that the wall that protects the public from the tigers is much shorter than we originally thought. What that means, it would have been much easier for the tiger to scale it and break free.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SIMON: Zoo officials making a significant correction today. It turns out the wall that protects the public from the tigers is only twelve and a half feet tall. According to the Associated Press, the Association of Zoos and Aquarium says it should be at least 16 feet tall. The lower wall might make a jump by the Siberian tiger out of the enclosure seem more plausible. The zoo's director is still stunned that the animal apparently made that leap.

MANUEL MOLLINEDO, DIRECTOR, SAN FRANCISCO ZOO: I think the tiger - well if she grabbed on to something, it could have been a ledge. She had to have jumped. How she was able to jump that high is amazing to me but you know it's an exotic animal.

SIMON: The father of Carlos Sousa, Jr. the 17-year-old who died, questioned the zoo's safeguards.

CARLOS SOUSA, FATHER OF TIGER ATTACK VICTIM: I think when that lady from what I heard, the lady got her arm got torn off, I think that they need to make improvements and didn't do enough for the public because I think the did should be protected on both sides, protected for the people and protected for the animals.

SIMON: Meanwhile police and zoo personnel distanced themselves from a San Francisco Chronicle report that the three young men may have taunted the tiger. The newspaper reported that a victim's shoe and some blood were discovered inside the enclosure. If true, it would suggest at least one of the victims hopped a fence to get closer to the tiger and attract her attention. But San Francisco's police chief says no such evidence was found.

CHIEF HEATHER FONG, SAN FRANCISCO POLICE: We have no information as of this time from the investigation that tells us that someone's leg was leaning against or leaning over the railing or slung over the rail at this time.

SIMON: Police say they did discover a shoe print on the fence that separates patrons from the tigers but it's not known at this point if it's from any of the victims.

FONG: We have obtained photographs of that shoe print and we also have all three pairs of shoes from the victims and our forensic analysis will allow us to determine if any of those shoes match the print that is on there.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SIMON: As for the size of the wall, why it is only 12 1/2 feet, the zoo director says that the zoo is regularly inspected by the AZA, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and according to the director, the zoo has never been cited, Wolf.

BLITZER: Dan Simon with the latest from there. Thank you, Dan, very much.

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