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Last Updated: Friday, 28 December 2007, 15:25 GMT
Muslims offer prayers for Bhutto
Benazir Bhutto
Benazir Bhutto had many supporters in the UK

British Muslims have offered prayers for the former Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated by a suicide bomber.

About 3,000 worshippers said special prayers at Birmingham Central Mosque following their usual Friday service.

Worshippers paid tribute to Ms Bhutto as they gathered for prayers.

Mosque regular Dr Mohammad Ijaz said: "She was a popular leader and her father was a great politician. It is a tragic loss of life."

Fellow worshipper Afsar Khan, 43, said: "The mosque was packed - about 3,000 people. People are very upset. I was really shocked yesterday when I heard the news.

"It's like when Princess Diana died - I will always remember where I was when Benazir Bhutto died."

Most people have been in contact with their loved ones in Pakistan and have been trying to find out what the latest position is
Mohammad Bashir

Another Rabnawaz Chughtai, 41, said: "Pakistan's future position is dark now, because we have lost a leader. She represented not just Pakistan, but all over the world."

"We have lost her, but there are more leaders who can hopefully combat that and bring the democracy back."

But Mr Chughtai said Pakistan now needed to get rid of President Musharraf's regime. "He is in the way of democracy," he said.

Mohammad Bashir said: "Benazir Bhutto is a world-class statesman who was renowned throughout the world, not just in Pakistan.

"She was a very charismatic personality and intellectual character. Most people have been in contact with their loved ones in Pakistan and have been trying to find out what the latest position is.

This is a disaster for Pakistan and a tragic end to the life of a most courageous politician
Shadow business secretary Alan Duncan

"In most major cities there has been upheaval and unrest."

In Bradford, about 1,000 worshippers turned out for prayers to remember Ms Bhutto at the city's Hanfia Mosque.

Many of the men said they had spent the morning watching her funeral on television. One man, who did not want to be named, said: "She was a very nice woman and I'm very sorry to hear of her death."

"It is like losing my own sister," he said.

Build democracy

Shadow business secretary Alan Duncan, who was a friend of Ms Bhutto's for more than 30 years since they met at Oxford University, said her death was a "stab in the heart of democracy".

He added: "I was in e-mail contact with her only a couple of days ago. This is a disaster for Pakistan and a tragic end to the life of a most courageous politician."

Birmingham Mosque chairman Dr Mohammed Naseem urged the people of Pakistan not to let the assassination destroy democracy.

Dr Naseem also called on Pakistanis to remain calm as violence erupted in the country amid fears of civil war breaking out.

He said the country's citizens should "take time to come together and say we are not letting anybody disrupt our process of democracy.

"Destroying property and killing people is senseless. Gun law is not the right law for any country."

Prime Minister Gordon Brown telephoned President Pervez Musharraf to pass on Britain's condolences and support.

Mr Brown urged Mr Musharraf to "stick to the course he has outlined to build democracy and stability in Pakistan".

The country, presently in the clutches of military, is being held at ransom by anti-democratic and terrorist forces
Ishtiaq Ahmed
Bradford Council of Mosques

Salma Yaqoob, Respect councillor for Birmingham's Sparkbrook area, said that Ms Bhutto was a charismatic figure who came to Birmingham quite often where she was "always well received."

She added that many Muslims in Birmingham had families in Pakistan and feared for their safety as riots later erupted in several Pakistani cities in the hours after the assassination.

The Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, said the city's Catholic community would also be praying for Ms Bhutto and her family.

He said: "The assassination of Benazir Bhutto is a terrible crime which creates a critical situation in Pakistan.

"We shall also be praying for Ms Bhutto and her family."

In Bradford, where about 70,000 people of Pakistani origin live, the killing was condemned as a "sad day" for the country and a threat to democracy.

'Terrorist forces'

Bradford Council of Mosques spokesman Ishtiaq Ahmed said: "The murder of Benazir Bhutto is a major setback to restoring democracy in Pakistan.

"The country, presently in the clutches of military, is being held at ransom by anti-democratic and terrorist forces."

Bradford was a major support base for Mrs Bhutto's political party, the PPP.

Mohammed Akram, from the Hanfia mosque in the city, said people would be anxious to find out who was behind the killing.

"We're shocked and we're very sad when we heard this news," he told BBC Radio 5 Live.
The Pakistan embassy in London
The Pakistani flag flew at half-mast at the London embassy

"She had a lot of supporters in Bradford. In fact, her father had a lot of support and since then she was like a Bradfordian to us."

Earlier, the prime minister condemned the attack as "a cowardly terrorist act designed to destabilise democratic elections".

He told President Musharraf: "The international community is united in its outrage and determination that those who stoop to such tactics shall not prevail.

"This deadly attack is also a potent reminder of the threat we face from terror.

"Pakistan is a major ally in the global effort to combat this menace."

Mr Brown also pledged his support in the "efforts to destroy al Qaeda" during the conversation with Mr Musharraf, Downing Street said.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband called the bombing, which killed about 20 people, a "senseless attack".

The Tories said it was "an appalling act of terrorism" and the Lib Dems called it a "hammer blow" to democracy in Pakistan.

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Reaction from the Pakistani community in the UK





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