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26 February 2024

American remanded in Pakistan over double killing


A US consulate employee appeared in a Pakistani court Friday and was ordered to be held in police custody over the shooting deaths of two men he said he killed in self-defence, police said.

The man, named as Raymond Davis and described by the US State Department as an American civilian working for the US consulate in Lahore, was being held at a police station on double murder charges over the deaths of two motorcyclists.

"We produced the American in the court of magistrate Zafar Iqbal, who remanded him into police custody for six days," senior police official Zulfiqar Hameed told AFP, adding that Davis would appear in court again on Thursday.

A third Pakistani was crushed to death by a consulate car that went to help Davis following the shooting in a busy street in the eastern city on Thursday.

The incident threatens to inflame anti-American sentiment in Pakistan, already running high partly because of a covert US drone campaign in the northwest tribal areas that has provoked deadly revenge attacks by militants.

Police said Davis described himself as a "technical adviser" with the consulate.

Police investigation officer Muneer Ahmed told AFP that post-mortem examinations were under way.

The American national told police he shot the two motorcycle riders in self-defence after they pulled a pistol on him in an attempted robbery, police officials said.

Punjab province's law minister Rana Sanaullah said the American seemed to have been on personal business at the time of the shooting.

"He said that he was returning from withdrawing cash from a bank and we are verifying this," Sanaullah told a news conference in Lahore.

"Every citizen has the right of self-defence but there are several requirements for the claim of self-defence. If those requirements have been met, he can use it in court."

Two handguns were found close to the victims' bodies, officers said, but police chief Aslam Tarin said they so far appeared to have no previous criminal record.

Imran Haider, the elder brother of one of the motorcyclists, 22-year-old Faizan Haider, said his brother only carried a pistol for protection, following the death of a third brother last month, and insisted the gun was licensed.

He said his brother was travelling home with his friend from a court hearing when the incident took place.
"My brother was innocent, he was not a criminal. We need justice," said the 34-year-old.

Police officer Ahmed said another murder case had been registered against unknown foreigners in the second vehicle over the death of the third man.

Sanaullah said the US consulate had agreed to release the second vehicle to police.

The post-mortem examinations were delayed overnight because of protests by family members of the deceased, he said.

More than 100 people blocked the road after the incident, setting tyres on fire in protest.

In one sign of wider anger, Pakistan's right-leaning daily newspaper The Nation reported the incident under the headline "'American Rambo' goes berserk in Lahore" and described Davis as an undercover US spy.

The US embassy in Islamabad has confirmed the man involved was a consular worker but said it was still trying to work out with the police what had happened.

There was confusion over whether the American was allowed to carry a weapon.

Police in Lahore said they were seeking legal advice on the matter, while a senior lawyer in Islamabad, Ali Zafar, told AFP that special permission was required for a foreigner to be armed.

A Western security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was extremely rare for Pakistani authorities to grant weapons permits to foreigners.

"It's a very sensitive issue here so getting a permit is virtually impossible for a foreigner. It would be extremely surprising if the American in Lahore had a permit," he told AFP.

The United States said Thursday it wanted to avoid any anti-American backlash in Pakistan, a vital ally in the US-led "war on terror" and said it would cooperate with the investigation.

Sanaullah said no US pressure would be allowed to influence the criminal case.

"We will not accept any pressure in this case. The guilty will be punished and the innocent will get justice," he told reporters.