28 DECEMBER 2007

Grief and anger spread across Pakistan this week after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, who was killed at a political rally on Thursday. She was 54.

Thousands of mourners immediately gathered at Ms Bhutto's family home in their home village near Larkana, in southern Pakistan, where she was buried after Friday prayers. She was laid to rest beside her father, former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was executed in 1979.

Tributes poured in for the former premier. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown hailed her as "a woman of immense personal courage and bravery".

"She risked everything in her attempt to win democracy in Pakistan and she has been assassinated by cowards afraid of democracy," he added.

Twice prime minister of the country, Ms Bhutto became the youngest female premier and the first woman to win power in a Muslim country when she was elected to office in 1988, at the age of 35. Following an eight-year self-imposed exile, she returned to her homeland in October and planned to stand in next month’s elections.

Ms Bhutto leaves behind a widower, Asif Ali Zardari, and two daughters, Bakhtawar, 15, and 13-year-old Asifa, who are based at the family's home at exile in Dubai, and a son, 19-year-old Bilawal, a student at Oxford, like his mother before him.

In a world exclusive, Ms Bhutto revealed to HELLO! magazine in October how her family were concerned for her wellbeing after an attempt on her life following her return to Pakistan.

"The children are worried for me," she said in her last personal interview . "I tell them not to worry and to have faith in God. Whatever is ordained will happen… I prefer not to dwell on the risks; I prefer to dwell on the things that need to be done in my country."

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The iconic leader, who was the first woman to win power in a Muslim country when she was elected to office in 1988, was killed as she left a rally in Pakistan on ThursdayPhoto: © AFP
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In October, Ms Bhutto opened her heart in an exclusive interview with HELLO! in which she spoke about her family's fears for her wellbeing. Here she is pictured with her son Bilawal and younger daughter Asifa, at their family home in DubaiPhoto: © RUSS KIENTSCH/HELLO ME
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A news vendor in Pakistan arranges the daily papers carrying news of the tragedy. Leaders around the world have paid tribute to Ms Bhutto, including British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who hailed her as "a woman of immense personal courage and bravery"Photo: © AFP