QUETTA, Pakistan – Heavily armed paramilitary troops patrolled the dusty streets of Quetta on Friday, guarding against any violence in the hometown of Aimal Kasi, a Pakistani man executed by lethal injection in Virginia for the 1993 murders of two CIA employees.
Some 2,000 extra police and soldiers were on the streets, some riding atop vans and pickups and armed with automatic weapons.
Authorities fear Pakistanis outraged at the execution of one of their own will resort to violence, despite a plea for peace by Kasi's family and the condemned man himself. Kasi, 38, died by injection Thursday at the Greensville Correctional Center at 9:07 p.m.
The U.S. State Department has warned that his execution could lead to retaliation against Americans around the world. Four Americans were gunned down in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi following Kasi's 1997 conviction.
The U.S. Embassy and American consulates in Pakistan were closing early Friday as a precaution, an embassy spokesman said on condition of anonymity. Other embassies and international organizations in Pakistan said they were already on high alert because of a string of recent attacks against foreigners this year.
"It is a security situation all the time," said Rachel Jameson, a spokeswoman at the British High Commission. "We have a policy not to discuss security measures since they might fall into the wrong hands."
In Quetta on Friday, family and friends began arriving at the home of Kasi's family, offering prayers for the dead in accordance with Muslim tradition. The family made no immediate comment on the execution, but Kasi's brother, Nasibullah Khan Kasi, said Wednesday that he hoped his brother's body would be returned to Pakistan as soon as possible.
In town, family supporters and religious leaders reacted angrily, but there were no immediate signs of violence, and a call for a general strike in Quetta went largely unnoticed. Many shops and businesses were closed anyway, in accordance with the Muslim sabbath.
"This will spread terrorism," said Mehmood Khan Kasi, 18, a member of the same tribe as Kasi's family. "We will fully protest it."
Mohammed Hanif, a Quetta real estate agent, said Kasi's body should be handed over immediately. "We want to bury him in our own soil," he said.
In Islamabad, meanwhile, a grouping of hardline Islamic parties said it was outraged at Kasi's execution.
"I condemn this. Absolutely, I am angry," said Ameer ul-Azeem, a spokesman for the United Action Forum. The religious bloc parlayed an anti-American platform into a strong showing in Oct. 10 parliamentary elections, and has been playing the role of power broker in efforts to form a coalition government.
The United Nations, the U.S. and British Embassies and several other foreign embassies evacuated nonessential staff earlier this year due in part to increased violence by suspected Islamic militants angry over President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's backing of the U.S.-led war on terrorism.
A June 14 car bombing outside the U.S. Consulate in Karachi killed 12 Pakistanis and wounded 50 others, and a suicide car bombing in the city in May killed 11 French engineers. On March 17, four people were killed — including a U.S. Embassy employee and her teen-age daughter — when a man hurled grenades into a Protestant church in Islamabad.