The U.S. Embassy said an American employee was involved in the incident in Lahore, but could not confirm details.

A U.S. consular employee shot and killed two gunmen as they approached his vehicle in a congested street in Pakistan on Thursday, police said. A pedestrian was also killed by a speeding American car trying to help, an officer said.

The U.S. Embassy said an American employee was involved in the incident in Lahore, but could not confirm details.

Police officer Umar Saeed said the men 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. Lahore has seen frequent terrorist bombings and shootings over the last two years, though the city?s small expatriate population has not been directly targeted.

Mr. Saeed said the American was being held by police following the incident.

He said the American shot both men as they approached the vehicle on a motorbike. Mr. Saeed said the man managed to alert colleagues who were in a car behind him. He said that the car hit a passer-by as it rushed to the scene. The hit passer-by later died at the hospital.

Local TV showed footage of what it said was the American?s car, which had several bullet holes in the front windshield.

In the north-western city of Peshawar in 2008, gunmen shot and killed an American aid worker as he drove to work. Suspected militants also opened fire on the vehicle of the United States? top diplomat in the city the same year, but she survived the attack.

Street robberies are not uncommon, and foreigners would be perceived as lucrative targets in the poor country.

Lahore is a city of 12 million people in eastern Pakistan not far from the Indian border. The United States has a small diplomatic mission there.

While the facts of the incident are still being established, it may add to anti-American rhetoric in the country.

Sections of the media are prone to fanning right-wing conspiracy theories that frequently feature armed foreigners roaming the country at will, violating its sovereignty. The United States is pumping millions of dollars in aid to the country, but many people still regard it with suspicion or outright enmity.

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