FBI agent arrested in Pakistan on weapons charges

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WASHINGTON -- An FBI agent is being held on anti-terrorism charges in Pakistan after he attempted to carry ammunition onto a plane in Karachi, Pakistani officials said Tuesday.

The agent was detained by airport police in Karachi about 4 p.m. Monday, when he tried to board a Pakistan International Airlines flight from Karachi to Islamabad. He was in possession of 15 bullets and a magazine for a 9mm pistol, police officials said.

On Tuesday, he appeared in court on charges that he had violated local anti-terrorism laws that prohibit the carrying of weapons or ammunition on a commercial flight. A judge ordered that the agent be detained until at least Saturday, so Pakistani security officials can investigate the matter.

The American's arrest was news across Pakistan, and one television station aired footage of the agent sitting in a jail cell in Karachi, the country's largest and one of its most dangerous cities.

U.S. officials in Washington confirmed that the agent, who is assigned to the FBI Miami Field Office, was in Pakistan on temporary duty. But the nature of his work in Pakistan remains unclear. U.S. officials requested that the agent's name be withheld, citing the situation's sensitivity.

Reached by phone, the agent's father said his son was scheduled to be in Pakistan for about three months for "office-type work" with "a non-FBI-type" entity.

An FBI spokesman in Washington referred questions about the arrest to the State Department.

Meghan Gregonis, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, said U.S. officials are working to resolve the matter. "We are aware of the reports, and we are coordinating closely with Pakistani authorities on the matter," she said.

State Department officials were also optimistic that the matter could be quickly resolved. But a Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesperson, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive subject, said officials were trying to gather more information about the agent's job in Pakistan. It's common for FBI agents to be assigned overseas, where they often work out of U.S. consulates or embassies.

One former FBI agent who used to work in Pakistan said agents are allowed to carry weapons. But the former agent, who spoke on condition of anonymity to be candid, said they were not allowed to carry weapons onto civilian aircraft in Pakistan.

In recent years, several Americans have been detained in Pakistan on charges that fueled diplomatic tension between the two countries. In the most high-profile case, a CIA contractor was detained for nearly two months in 2011 on charges that he killed two men in Lahore. Raymond A. Davis, who was part of a secret CIA team that had been operating in the eastern city, argued that he had acted in self-defense after the two men tried to rob him.

The incident sparked violent protests across Pakistan and greatly strained bilateral relations. Pakistan initially rebuffed requests from senior Obama administration officials that Mr. Davis be granted diplomatic immunity. But he was eventually freed after arrangements were made to compensate relatives of the victims.


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