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Bhutto took on risks in life

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  • NEW: Bush: Bhutto "refused to allow assassins to dictate the course of her country"
  • Bhutto was first female prime minister of a Muslim country
  • Bhutto survived assassination attempt in October
  • Her father, a former prime minister, was hanged in 1979
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(CNN) -- Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated Thursday in Rawalpindi, was the first female prime minister of Pakistan and of any Islamic nation. She led Pakistan from 1988 to 1990 and again from 1993 to 1996.

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Benazir Bhutto died Thursday after a suicide bombing at a political rally in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

Bhutto, 54, spent eight years in self-imposed exile in Great Britain and Dubai after President Farooq Leghari dismissed her second administration amid accusations of corruption, intimidation of the judiciary, a breakdown of law and order, and undermining the justice system.

She was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to five years in prison. The conviction was later overturned but she remained in exile until this year.

She returned to Pakistan in October after President Pervez Musharraf signed an amnesty lifting corruption charges. Video Watch political history of Bhutto »

In a September 26 interview on CNN's "The Situation Room," Bhutto said she expected threats against her life as she prepared to lead a push for the restoration of democracy in Pakistan.

"After military dictatorship an anarchic situation developed, which the terrorists and Osama (bin Laden) have exploited," she told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "They don't want democracy, they don't want me back, and they 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," she said.

Bhutto narrowly escaped injury on October 18 when a suicide bombing near her convoy in Karachi killed 126 people.

"Soon thereafter, I was asked by authorities not to travel in cars with tinted windows -- which protected me from identification by terrorists -- or travel with privately armed guards," she wrote for CNN.com in November.

"I began to feel the net was being tightened around me when police security outside my home in Karachi was reduced, even as I was told that other assassination plots were in the offing."

"I decided not to be holed up in my home, a virtual prisoner," she wrote. "I went to my ancestral village of Larkana to pray at my father's grave. Everywhere, the people rallied around me in a frenzy of joy. I feel humbled by their love and trust."

Musharraf declared a state of emergency and placed Bhutto under house arrest twice in November as anti-government rallies grew in Rawalpindi. The arrest warrant was lifted November 16.

She filed a nomination paper for a parliamentary seat on November 25 and appeared headed for a power showdown with Musharraf before she was assassinated Thursday. See a timeline of Bhutto's political career »

Bhutto was the daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, former president and prime minister of Pakistan, who was hanged in 1979 for the murder of a political opponent two years after he was ousted as prime minister in a military coup. Benazir Bhutto was the de facto leader of her father's Pakistan People's Party.

Her brother, Murtaza, was killed along with six others in a 1996 shootout with police at his home. Another brother, Shahnawaz, died mysteriously in France in 1985.

"I know the past is tragic, but I'm an optimist by nature," Bhutto told Blitzer in September. "I put my faith in the people of Pakistan, I put my faith in God. I feel that 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 danger is out there, but I'm prepared to take those risks."

Benazir Bhutto earned degrees from Radcliffe College and Oxford University and received an honorary degree from Harvard University in 1989.

She leaves her husband of 20 years, Asif Ali Zardari, two daughters and a son.

Bhutto's husband issued a statement Thursday from his home in Dubai saying, "All I can say is we're devastated, it's a total shock."

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President Bush, on his ranch in Crawford, Texas, said Bhutto "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. "We urge them to honor Benazir Bhutto's memory by continuing with the democratic process for which she so bravely gave her life." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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