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7 May, 2014 00:40

FBI agent on sensitive job in Pakistan arrested on terrorism charges

FBI agent on sensitive job in Pakistan arrested on terrorism charges

An agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been detained in Pakistan after allegedly attempting to bring a 9 millimeter pistol magazine and 15 bullets on board a plane in Karachi.

Officials told the Washington Post that the agent, whose name was not revealed, was taken into custody Monday afternoon upon trying to board a flight to Islamabad.

US law enforcement confirmed to the Post that the agent had only recently been assigned to Pakistan and that he had been arrested for allegedly breaking local anti-terrorism laws, which prohibit the carrying a firearm or ammunition onto a commercial flight.

A judge ruled Tuesday that the agent remain behind bars until Saturday, at the earliest.

His specific assignment in Pakistan remains unclear, although the agent’s father told the Post he was scheduled to be stationed in Pakistan for three months for “office-type work” of “a non-FBI-type” nature.

We are aware of the reports, and we are coordinating closely with Pakistani authorities on the matter,” said Megan Gregonis, a spokeswoman for the US Embassy in Islamabad.

An FBI source told journalists that while agents are authorized to carry guns in-country, they are prohibited from boarding aircraft armed. It is not unusual for FBI agents to be stationed outside of the US as they frequently are assigned to consulates and embassies around the world.

The arrest, and its possible fallout, has dominated the national media conversation in Pakistan since officials first announced they had an FBI agent in custody.

Still, the State Department told media outlets that the case will be easier to resolve than the multiple US officers arrested in Pakistan in recent years.

The most explosive arrest was of Raymond A. Davis, a CIA contractor who was charged with killing two men in Lahore. Davis maintained that he was acting in self-defense after the two men tried to rob him, inciting rowdy protests throughout Pakistan and creating a major speed bump on the road to increased diplomacy between the two nations.

Davis was eventually freed in 2011 after a deal was agreed that would compensate the relatives of the dead men with a payment worth up to $2.3 million.

When asked at the time where the funds were coming from a US official said only, “We expect to receive a bill.”

The current situation is fragile, though, because all signs point toward improved relations between the US and Pakistan, albeit only slightly.

American military officials have promised to drastically reduce the number of drone strikes, a major point of contention for decades now, as the government of Pakistan has pledged to make efforts at containing the militant groups known to reside in the isolated tribal regions. All of which makes the FBI agent’s arrest especially delicate.

Both sides recognized that we have more in common than we had that diverge between our two countries and that we work on the bases of common interests and on the basis of mutual respect to move the relationship forward,” US Ambassador to Pakistan, Richard Olson, said earlier this year.