Three Pakistani locals were killed in Lahore on Jan. 27 in an incident involving a U.S. consular employee. The employee, identified by the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad as Raymond Davis, said he fired in self-defense, according to police reports. Details are still sketchy, and the investigation is ongoing. However, based on initial accounts, it appears that Davis was practicing good situational awareness
and thwarted a robbery or possibly an assassination. In Davis' account of the incident, relayed via Lahore police to Pakistani media, he said he noticed several motorcycle riders approaching his vehicle, and one pulled out a pistol. At that point, Davis shot and killed one of the motorcyclists with a 9 mm pistol. A second wounded motorcyclist reportedly died later in the hospital, and a vehicle fleeing the scene (it is unclear if it belonged to Davis or another consular employee) hit and killed a bystander. The shooting took place at a prominent roundabout (there are conflicting reports as to whether it occurred at the Mazang or the Qartaba roundabout) in the afternoon, with many witnesses who allegedly corroborated Davis' account. Images taken by local media at the scene show a vehicle that appears to be a late-model unmarked Honda sedan with a sunroof, an average car that would blend in fairly well in Lahore. The rear window of the vehicle was shot out, and reports indicate that there were several bullet holes in the windshield. It is unclear whether the damage was done by Davis as he was shooting or by his alleged assailants. A crowd gathered at a local police station shortly after the incident to protest the shooting, which will likely generate a great deal of fresh anti-American sentiment
in the country. Davis is in police custody at an undisclosed location, but likely has diplomatic immunity that would protect him from local prosecution. The situation Davis was in is a common one for quick robberies and is also used for assassinations: He was in his vehicle, stopped at a traffic light, and vulnerable to gunmen on motorcycles who could quickly maneuver next to him and flee the scene just as quickly. This assassination tactic has been used in Pakistan, (a general was assassinated in Islamabad in 2009
, Greece (the November 17 militant group killed multiple U.S. officials this way
during the 1970s and 1980s) and elsewhere. It is possible that this attack was a robbery attempt, which are very common in Lahore, but since the target was a U.S. Consulate employee in a high state of alert, indicating he was trained to maintain situational awareness, assassination cannot be ruled out. That Davis was driving alone in an unmarked vehicle — no diplomatic plates or flags, meaning that it was meant to blend in — without the standard security presence and while wearing a wireless headset indicates that he could have been acting covertly. Additionally, according to eyewitnesses Davis took pictures of the individuals he had shot, indicating that he knew to collect evidence — and thus was well-trained and prepared. U.S. interests have become part of the target set
for radical Islamists in Pakistan
, meaning that U.S. officials in the country would be fully aware of and prepared for the threat of operating there. Regardless of the assailants' intent, it appears Davis practiced the kind of situational awareness that STRATFOR has long advocated
and is required for U.S. officials — and other foreigners — when working in a hostile environment like Pakistan.