LAHORE // A US consular employee shot and killed two gunmen yesterday as they approached his vehicle in a congested street in Pakistan.
The US Embassy said an American employee was involved in the incident in Lahore, but could not confirm details.
A pedestrian was also killed by a speeding American car trying to help.
A police officer, Umar Saeed, said the gunmen were suspected robbers, but provided no evidence to back up the statement. He said the American, who was not identified, shot at the men in self-defence.
Western diplomats travel with armed guards in many parts of Pakistan because of the risk of militant attack. There have been frequent terrorist bombings and shootings in Lahore over the past two years, though the city's small expatriate population has not been directly targeted.
The Lahore police chief, Aslam Tareen, said the American was being questioned by the police and may be charged with both murder and illegally carrying a weapon: a Beretta pistol. The American shot both men after they pointed guns at him at a road junction, Mr Tareen said.
"Diplomatic staff usually enjoy a certain type of immunity, but I am not sure about murder," he said. "We will consult the foreign office and legal advisers in this regard."
The gunmen approached the American's vehicle on a motorbike, said Mr Saeed, the police officer. The American managed to alert colleagues in a car behind him who hit and killed a passer-by as they rushed to the scene, he said.
Local television showed footage of what it said was the American's car, which had several bullet holes in the front windscreen. It also showed one of the gunmen lying dead next to a motorbike with a pistol on the ground nearby.
The other gunman was shown being placed in the back of an ambulance and appeared to be wearing a holster.
While the facts of the incident are still being established, it may add to anti-American rhetoric in the country.
A few dozen people protested outside the police station where the American was being held. They burnt tyres and one of them held up a sign saying "American dog".
Sections of the Pakistani media are prone to fanning right-wing conspiracy theories that frequently feature armed foreigners roaming the country at will, violating its sovereignty.