(CNSNews.com) - President Bush sent condolences to the family of Benazir Bhutto and to the people of Pakistan Thursday, on what he called "this tragic occasion" -- Bhutto's assassination at a political rally.
Bush said the U.S. "strongly condemns this cowardly act by murderous extremists trying to undermine Pakistan's democracy," and he said the assassins must be brought to justice.
Bush said Bhutto knew she was putting her life at risk by returning to Pakistan, but she "refused to allow assassins to dictate the course of her country."
"We stand with the people of Pakistan in their struggle against the forces of terror and extremism," Bush said. He said it's important for Pakistanis to honor Bhutto's memory by continuing the democratic process "for which she so bravely gave her life."
A number of presidential hopefuls also addressed the Bhutto assassination on Thursday.
Democrat Sen. Hillary Clinton condemned the "extremism" and "anti-democratic forces at work" in Pakistan. She said she grieves for Bhutto's family -- "and for the people of Pakistan who deserve to have an opportunity to vote for leaders of their choosing." She said Pakistan is a country with "tremendous potential that is not being realized" because of an oppressive government.
Republican Sen. John McCain said the United States must "express our advocacy for the rule of law" in Pakistan. McCain said if he were president, he would "be on the phone right now" and meeting with his National Security Council to find the best way of addressing the "tense and unsteady" situation in nuclear-armed Pakistan.
Republican Mitt Romney was the first presidential hopeful to react to the suicide attack in Pakistan. He made his comments before Bhutto's death was confirmed.
"This points out again the extraordinary reality of global violent radical jihadism," Romney said. "We don't know who is responsible for this attack but there is no question that the violence we see throughout the world is violence which is not limited to Iran, excuse me, Iraq, and Afghanistan -- but is more global in nature. And this type of loss of life points out again the need for our nation and other civilized nations of the West and of the civilized world to come together to support moderate Islamic leaders, moderate Islamic people -- to help them in their effort to reject the violent and the extreme."
Romney said the world must "come together" to "help overcome the threat of the spread of radical, violent Jihad."
Republican Rudy Giuliani said Bhutto's killers "must be brought to justice and Pakistan must continue the path back to democracy and the rule of law." Giuliani said Bhutto's death "is a reminder that terrorism anywhere -- whether in New York, London, Tel-Aviv, or Rawalpindi -- is an enemy of freedom. We must redouble our efforts to win the terrorists' war on us."
Democrat Sen. Barack Obama said he was "shocked and saddened" by Bhutto's assassination. "She was a respected and resilient advocate for the democratic aspirations of the Pakistani people. We join with them in mourning her loss, and stand with them in their quest for democracy and against the terrorists who threaten the common security of the world," Obama said in a statement.
Republican Mike Huckabee drew parallels to the election campaign in the United States:
"The terrible violence surrounding Pakistan's upcoming election stands in stark contrast to the peaceful transition of power that we embrace in our country through our Constitution," Huckabee said in a statement. "On this sad day, we are reminded that while our democracy has flaws, it stands as a shining beacon of hope for nations and people around the world who seek peace and opportunity through self-government."
See Related Story:
Bhutto's Death Is 'Wake-Up Call to Muslims,' Group Says (Dec. 27, 2007)
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