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4 U.S. workers slain in Pakistan

The van

Washington downplays link to CIA shooting case

November 12, 1997
Web posted at: 9:12 p.m. EST (0212 GMT)

KARACHI, Pakistan (CNN) -- Four employees of a U.S. oil company and their Pakistani driver were shot to death Wednesday in a daylight ambush on their way to work in downtown Karachi.

The U.S. embassy in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, later received an anonymous telephone call linking the attack to case of Mir Amil Kasi, who has been convicted of two counts of murder by a jury in the United States for a 1993 shooting spree outside CIA headquarters.

However, sources tell CNN that the embassy has so far been unable to verify the claim and that it is not being taken seriously by the U.S. government.

A L S O :

Killings shadow Karachi's descent into violence

U.S. warns of retaliation after CIA killer conviction

More than 2,800 people have been killed in political and sectarian violence in Karachi since 1995.


"We're shocked. We're stunned. We don't know how to deal with losing employees like this. We're all at a dead loss."

— John Whitmore, Chairman Union Texas Petroleum

Given that atmosphere, "there is no way of verifying any direct link" between Wednesday's slayings and the Kasi trial, the source said.

Company's CEO: 'We're stunned'

In Houston, Texas, the chief executive officer of Union Texas Petroleum, for which the four Americans worked, said the company was not planning to evacuate the rest of its employees from Pakistan.

Union Texas Petroleum
Union Texas Petroleum has been active in exploring for, developing and producing oil and gas in Pakistan for more than 20 years, according to the company. It has about 600 employees in Pakistan. All but 21 of them are Pakistanis.

But "we're shocked. We're stunned," said John Whitmire. "We don't know how to deal with losing employees like this."

In Washington, White House spokesman Mike McCurry called the slayings "an outrageous act of barbarism."

"We are working closely with the government of Pakistan to apprehend those responsible," he said.

Pakistani President Farooq Leghari sent a message to President Bill Clinton, saying that the shooting incident "has shocked us deeply."

"We are determined to apprehend the criminals swiftly and award them severe punishment," Leghari said.

This marks the second time in as many years that American workers have been targeted in Karachi.

In 1995, two U.S. consular workers were shot to death --murders later linked to the arrest and extradition from Pakistan of Ramzi Yousef, accused of being one of the masterminds of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City.

Yousef was convicted on murder and conspiracy charges in a New York courtroom Wednesday, hours after the slayings in Karachi.

Witness: Victims killed instantly

Union Texas identified those killed as Ephraim Egbu, Joel Enlow, Larry Jennings and Tracy Ritchie, all of Houston; and Anwar Murza of Karachi. The four Americans worked as internal auditors for the company and had arrived in Pakistan less than a month ago. Murza was their driver.

Asim Raees, another employee of Union Texas, was the first person on the scene of the shooting. He said the victims were killed instantly.

"The bodies were riddled with bullets, and none of them was alive," Raees said. "There were other company cars which were following them. We removed them in our own vehicles to the hospital."

Jury deciding Kasi's sentence

On Monday, Kasi, a Pakistani national, was convicted of killing two people and wounding three others by firing at cars with an assault rifle during morning rush hour outside of CIA headquarters in 1993.

The trial has now entered its punishment phase, during which jurors will decide whether Kasi will be sentenced to death. After Wednesday's shootings, jury members were sequestered at an undisclosed location amid additional security.

After the conviction, the U.S. State Department warned Americans traveling abroad that people sympathetic to Kasi might react against Americans, and security was tightened at western diplomatic outposts.

In Kasi's hometown of Quetta, about 600 kilometers (360 miles) northwest of Karachi, some jittery foreign workers were placed under armed guard at a hotel.

Correspondent Steve Hurst and Reuters contributed to this report.


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