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U.S. Demands Release Of Diplomat In Pakistan

Police escort Raymond Davis (center) to a court in Lahore on January 28.

Police escort Raymond Davis (center) to a court in Lahore on January 28.

The United States has demanded the immediate release of an American arrested in the shooting deaths of two Pakistanis, saying he is a diplomat who qualifies for immunity from prosecution and was illegally detained.

The statement from the embassy raised the stakes in what could emerge as a major dispute between Pakistan and the United States. It also showed the shaky nature of ties between the two nations, a relationship Washington believes is crucial for success in Afghanistan and against Al-Qaeda.

Pakistani officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but prosecutors said on January 28 they would pursue murder charges.

The killings in Lahore on January 27 added to already strong anti-U.S. sentiment in Pakistan. Islamist and nationalist commentators have portrayed the incident as an example of American brutality and called on the government -- often criticized for being to beholden to Washington -- to punish the man.

The embassy said the man -- named as Raymond Davis -- was acting in self-defense when he shot and killed two armed men as they approached his car. It said the men wanted to rob him, something police also have said. A third Pakistani died when he was allegedly hit by an American car that rushed to the scene to help the U.S. official.

compiled from agency reports