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US official expected to appear in court

PAKISTAN NEWS LAHORE: A US official was expected to appear in a Pakistan court on Friday on double murder charges, police said, a day after he shot dead two men on a motorcycle in what he said was self-defence.

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Lahore police chief Aslam Tareen said the American was being questioned by the police and may be charged with both murder and illegally carrying a weapon.

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

Police officer Riasat Ali said one of the victim’s brothers had registered a criminal case against the American, a necessary step for the police to begin an investigation.

A third Pakistani was crushed to death by a US consulate car that had followed to aid the official following the shooting in a busy street in Lahore.

Police identified the official as Raymond Davis and said he described himself as a “technical adviser” with the consulate.

“The post mortem of the dead men is under way, we are waiting for the report,” police investigation officer Muneer Ahmed told AFP.

“Once we get the report and other documents, we expect to produce the American before a magistrate for possible remand.”

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

Another police officer Umar Saeed said the American had told officers he had withdrawn money from an ATM shortly before the incident, raising the possibility the two men were following him.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.

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

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

More than 100 people blocked the road after the incident by setting tyres on fire to protest against the killing, later moving their picket outside the police station where the American’s car was impounded.

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

The United States said Thursday it wanted to avoid any anti-American backlash in Pakistan, its vital ally in the US led “war on terror”.

“We want to make sure that a tragedy like this does not affect the strategic partnership that we’re building with Pakistan,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters.

“And we’ll work as hard as we can to explain that to the Pakistani people.”

Crowley gave few details of the event, but confirmed that an American civilian working for the US consulate in Lahore was “involved in an incident”, while declining to identify the individual.

“There’s a Pakistan investigation. We will cooperate fully,” he said.

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 United States with suspicion or outright enmity because of its occupation of neighbouring Afghanistan and regular missile attacks in the northwest.

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.

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