Suspecting retaliation, FBI sends a team of agents to Pakistan Hard evidence is lacking

trap possible, official warns

November 13, 1997|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- Federal counterterrorism officials said that they had no hard evidence to link the killing of four Americans in Karachi yesterday to a Pakistani immigrant's conviction, 28 hours earlier, on charges of murdering two CIA employees in 1993.

But suspicion was strong enough that the FBI dispatched a team of agents to Karachi. Their orders are to gather evidence, not to conduct a full-scale terrorism investigation, because Attorney General Janet Reno has not certified that the slaying of the four men and their Pakistani driver was an act of terrorism.

They were told to proceed cautiously. "There is a fear" that they might be in danger of falling into a trap set to avenge the conviction of the Pakistani immigrant, Mir Aimal Kasi, a U.S. official said.

"The fear is that the idea behind the shooting was to lure the FBI to Pakistan and attack them -- that they will target the FBI for snatching Kasi," said the official, who spoke on condition that he not be identified by name or agency.

FBI agents, working with CIA officers and State Department officials, arrested Kasi in Pakistan five months ago after a 4 1/2 -year manhunt. They flew him to a Virginia jail without a formal hearing after the arrest, which touched off anti-American protests in Pakistani cities, including Karachi.

Counterterrorism officials said yesterday that it was not immediately clear why the car carrying four American oil company contractors was chosen as a target by the gunmen in Karachi. One said the gunman might have picked "a random opportunity to go after what looked like Americans."

In the five months since Kasi's arrest, U.S. citizens in Pakistan have received several warnings, official and unofficial, to look out for their safety.

Pub Date: 11/13/97

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