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Official to face murder rap in Pakistan, fury against US grows

world Updated: Feb 02, 2011 11:15 IST

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A Pakistani prosecutor says the state will pursue murder charges against a US consular employee suspected in the shooting deaths of two armed men possibly intent on robbing him.

Rana Bakhtiar spoke on Friday after the American appeared in court where judges ordered him to remain in police custody for six days.

The case has sharpened anti-American sentiment in Pakistan.

Raymond Davis is

alleged to have shot dead two gunmen who may have been intent on robbing him has been formally placed under arrest and could face murder charges, authorities said Friday, in a case that may inflame anti-American anger in the country.

A third Pakistani was killed in the incident on Thursday in the bustling city of Lahore, allegedly after being hit by a US vehicle rushing to aid the American.

Police officer Umar Saeed said on Friday that the American had told officers he had withdrawn money from an ATM shortly before the incident, raising the possibility the two men were following him. Others Pakistani officers have said the men were likely robbers and both were carrying pistols.

The issue of American diplomats or their security detail carrying weapons inside Pakistan was a hot-button subject last year among certain politicians and sections of the media purportedly worried about the country's sovereignty.

Many Pakistanis regard the US with suspicion or outright enmity because of its occupation of neighboring Afghanistan and regular missile attacks against militant targets in Pakistan's northwest.

Protests over the shootout were planned for Friday in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi against Davis.

"'American Rambo' goes berserk in Lahore,'" read the headline in The Nation, a right-wing newspaper that often publishes anti-U.S. conspiracy theories.

Western diplomats travel with armed guards in many parts of Pakistan because of the risk of militant attack. Lahore has seen frequent terrorist bombings and shootings over the last two years, though the city's small expatriate population has not been directly targeted.

Punjab province Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said the American was formally placed under arrest after a complaint from a brother of one of the victims. The case is being investigated as a potential murder, and the American may face that charge, Sanaullah said.

Lahore police chief Aslam Tareen said the American may also face a charge involving illegally carrying a weapon, a Beretta pistol.

"Diplomatic staff usually enjoy a certain type of immunity, but I am not sure about murder," Tareen said. "We will consult the Foreign Office and legal advisers in this regard."

In a two-sentence statement Friday, the US embassy confirmed that a consulate staffer "was involved in an incident yesterday that regrettably resulted in the loss of life." The US was working with Pakistanis to "determine the facts and work toward a resolution," it said.