Pakistani judge orders American held 8 more days
LAHORE, Pakistan – A court on Thursday ordered the detention of an American official suspected in the shooting deaths of two Pakistanis extended by at least eight days, in defiance of U.S. demands the man be released immediately.
The United States says the American, identified by Pakistanis as Raymond Allen Davis, has diplomatic immunity and is being illegally detained. He has told a Pakistani court that he acted in self-defense last week when he shot two armed men who were intent on robbing him at gunpoint as he drove his car in the city of Lahore. Police say they are pursuing possible murder charges.
The shootings have stoked anti-American sentiment in Pakistan just as Washington is trying to seek more cooperation with Islamabad in the campaign against Islamist militants. The U.S. is already widely unpopular in Pakistan, in part because of its undeclared campaign of drone missile strikes in the northwest borderlands.
The deaths have also added to pressure on Pakistan's weak government here, which will face charges of being an American lackey if it hands over Davis to the United States. Refusing to do so risks severing a relationship with a vital ally and donor.
In Lahore on Thursday, hundreds of protesters, including relatives of the dead Pakistanis, rallied outside the barricaded U.S. consulate, shouting "Hang the American killer!"
Pakistani officials have avoided definitive statements on Davis' level of diplomatic clearance and whether he qualifies for immunity. They have said the decision on his fate is up to the court.
Davis was arrested soon after the Jan. 27 shootings. He made a brief appearance in a court session Thursday that was closed to the media. Police officer Zulifqar Hameed said a judge ordered Davis be held another eight days. His next court appearance is set for Feb. 11.
In a statement, the U.S. Embassy complained that it had not been notified of the court hearing and that Davis had no lawyer or translator with him. It reiterated that his "continuing detention is a gross violation of international law."
Besides the two men who were shot dead, a bystander was also killed when he was struck by an American car rushing to the scene to help Davis.
Also Thursday in Lahore, a bombing at a Muslim shrine in Lahore killed two people, said police officer Shahzad Asif. He described the bomb as "small" and said officers were examining the scene. Islamist extremists who view the practice of worshipping at shrines as a deviation from Islam bombed several such places last year in Pakistan.
Meanwhile, gunmen in southwest Pakistan shot dead the driver of a truck believed to be carrying supplies for NATO troops across the border in Afghanistan. The driver's assistant was also wounded in the attack near the border town of Chaman, security official Abdul Sattar said.
Militants and ordinary criminals in Pakistan frequently attack trucks carrying supplies for Western troops in Afghanistan. The shaky security has led the U.S. to increasingly rely on other routes, including through Central Asian countries.
In the northwest, a group of militants attacked a security checkpoint in the tribal region of Orakzai, killing a soldier. Seven insurgents died during the clash as well, government administrator Aurangzeb Khan said. Orakzai has been the focus of a Pakistani army offensive
Associated Press writer Matiullah Achakzai in Chaman and Hussain Afzal in Parachinar contributed to this report.