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US urges release of Pakistan gunman

WASHINGTON, Feb 22 – The United States called for Pakistan to free an American arrested for killing two men and to ensure his safety in custody after revelations he worked for the CIA.

US officials declined public comment on accounts that Raymond Davis worked for the Central Intelligence Agency and insisted he enjoyed diplomatic immunity because Pakistan had accepted his status when he entered.

"We remain concerned about him and our message to Pakistan remains he should be released as soon as possible," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters on a conference call.

Crowley said Pakistan has told the United States that Davis is staying "in the safest possible location in Lahore," the eastern city where he shot dead two Pakistani men on January 27.

"Clearly, we hold the government of Pakistan fully responsible for his safety," Crowley said.

In Islamabad, an official from Pakistan\’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency told AFP that "beyond any shadow of a doubt" Davis was working on contract for the CIA.

 Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, last week referred to the arrested gunman as an "agent."

The New York Times on Monday reported that Davis was part of a CIA operation tracking Islamic extremists in eastern Pakistan such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, the virulently anti-Indian group involved in the bloody 2008 siege of Mumbai.

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The New York Times said it withheld the information after President Barack Obama\’s administration said it would endanger Davis\’ safety, but decided to release the details after other media reported the CIA link.

The United States said that Davis was acting in self-defense when he shot two armed men who approached him. A third Pakistani was killed after being hit by a US diplomatic vehicle that came to Davis\’ assistance.

The killing has put intense pressure on Pakistan\’s civilian government, which has partnered with the United States in the campaign against Islamic extremism despite widespread anti-American sentiment at home.

But a senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said of the case: "This is about as clear as it gets under international law."

 The official said that the US embassy in Islamabad informed Pakistan on January 20, 2010, that Davis was working for its "administrative and technical staff."

As Pakistan did not reject the designation, Davis therefore enjoyed diplomatic immunity from that point on, the official said.

"Any other form of action, including a judicial proceeding or any other action, is inconsistent with his status as a member of a diplomatic mission. It would only compound the violations of international law," the official said.

"When someone enters our country, if that person is notified as a member of the administrative and technical staff of a diplomatic mission, that\’s the end of the story," he said.

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