Sunday, February 27, 2011

Pakistani shooting exposes 'spy war'

THE shooting of two Pakistani men in Lahore by an undercover CIA agent has taken a new twist after it was claimed the victims worked for Pakistan's own intelligence agency and had been tailing the American's car for hours.

Raymond Davis, 36, sparked a diplomatic crisis last month when he shot dead two young men in the centre of the Punjabi capital. A third local man was killed by a back-up vehicle rushing to rescue him.

The reason for the shooting at a busy junction in daylight remains a mystery. Although the two men were armed, witness reports do not back the US government's claim they were common criminals trying to rob Mr Davis.

What is clear is that as they pulled in front of his car, Mr Davis felt threatened enough to pump seven bullets with professional accuracy into the two men. Pakistani officials claim they were shot in the back.

Pakistani political and security sources have claimed the two men were operatives of the country's Inter-Services Intelligence agency: spies keeping tabs on a spy, killed in a story of brinkmanship gone wrong.

Officially, ISI denies this and suggests the men were Mr Davis's informants, who turned on him in a dispute over pay, causing him to panic that they would reveal his true identity.

However, according to ABC News, at least four Pakistani officials confirmed they were working for ISI. The Sunday Times found that both political and Foreign Office sources corroborated the claim that at least one of them was hired by ISI, although not a full agent.

Sources said the men had been sent to follow Mr Davis because ISI believed he had crossed "a red line". Late last month, Davis was asked to leave an area of Lahore restricted to the military. His mobile phone was tracked and some of his calls were made to Waziristan, where the Pakistani Taliban have a safe haven. It is suspected the calls were made to "ground informants" guiding US drone strikes against Taliban militants.

Pakistani intelligence officials allegedly saw Mr Davis as a threat who was "encroaching on their turf", and, according to one report, the men followed him for two hours, recording his movements on their phone cameras.

Mr Davis tried to escape after the shooting but failed. Items found in his car immediately fanned suspicion - a police report stated he had a Glock pistol, 75 bullets, a "survival kit" and a telescope. Questions were raised about what he was doing in a lower-class district that housed the office of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, an organisation blacklisted by the UN as a terrorist front.

Mr Davis was unmasked as a CIA employee last week, but US papers had previously kept his true identity quiet after being told his life was at risk.

The US government claims Mr Davis has diplomatic immunity and is being held illegally. Fearful of looking like a US lackey to an enraged public, the fragile Pakistani government has refused to release him, and the judiciary and political establishment demand he stand trial.

Sources close to the case, however, claim the incident has much wider implications and reveals a covert turf war being waged between ISI and the CIA.

According to one senior official, the granting of more than 2000 visas to US officials has riled ISI, which feels threatened by the presence of undeclared CIA operatives on its doorstep.

Mr Davis has become a pawn in a high-stakes tussle between the two agencies. ISI is using the controversy to demand the identities of CIA officers working in Pakistan and access to the drone technology used to target terrorist militants along the border with Afghanistan.

A senior ISI officer told The Sunday Times that Pakistani intelligence wanted to "move forward" from the affair if the US was willing to make concessions and treat Pakistan "as allies".

Trust could be regained by identifying agents and entrusting Pakistan with drone technology, he suggested. "Give us the drones and the question of sovereignty doesn't come in."

The question of drone secrets was reportedly raised at a meeting between US and Pakistani army chiefs last week.The Sunday Times(The Australian)

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