10:23am

Thu January 27, 2011
Asia

U.S. Consulate Staffer Involved In Pakistan Shooting

A U.S. consular employee in Pakistan shot and killed two armed men Thursday as they approached his vehicle on a congested street in the city of Lahore, police said. A pedestrian was also killed by a vehicle that reportedly was racing to the staffer's aid.

A spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad confirmed that the staffer is an American who works at the consulate in Lahore, but could not identify his position.

Police said the American, who was not named, had been taken into custody following the incident.

Lahore police chief Aslam Tareen said the man was being questioned by the police and may be charged with both murder and illegally carrying a weapon: a Beretta pistol. The American shot both men after they pointed guns at him at an intersection, Tareen said.

"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 said the two men, identified as Faisan Haider and Obaid Ur Rehman, were riding motorcycles when the consulate staffer opened fire. Local media quoted witnesses as saying that the men had been "chasing" the American's car when the shooting began, and police said they had recovered weapons carried by the dead men.

Police officer Umar Saeed said the men were suspected robbers and that the American shot at them in self-defense and managed to alert colleagues who were in a vehicle traveling behind him. The vehicle, reportedly a Land Cruiser, hit a passer-by as it rushed to the scene. The pedestrian later died at a Lahore hospital.

Local TV showed footage of what it said was the American's car, which had several bullet holes in the front windshield. It also showed one of the gunmen laying dead next to a motorbike with a pistol on the ground nearby. The other gunman was shown being placed in the back of an ambulance and appeared to be wearing a holster.

Given the tense anti-American atmosphere in Pakistan, a shooting on the streets of a major city involving a U.S. citizen could have serious repercussions.

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

In the northwestern city of Peshawar in 2008, gunmen shot and killed an American aid worker as he drove to work. Suspected militants also opened fire on the vehicle of the United States' top diplomat in the city the same year, but she survived the attack.

Street robberies are not uncommon, and foreigners would be perceived as lucrative targets in the poor country.

Lahore is a city of 12 million people in eastern Pakistan not far from the Indian border. The United States has a small diplomatic mission there.

NPR's Julie McCarthy reported from Islamabad, Pakistan, for this story, which contains material from The Associated Press. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.