JARRATT (Virginia), Nov 15: Mir Aimal Kasi, convicted of killing two CIA employees in 1993, was executed on Thursday night, with the US State Department warning of global retaliation against Americans.
Kasi, 38, died by injection at the Greensville Correctional Center at 9:07pm
“There is no god but Allah,” Kasi said, softly chanting the kalima until he lost consciousness. “And Muhammad is His prophet.”
The State Department, wary of possible reprisals, had earlier ordered four US diplomatic missions in Pakistan to close early as a precaution. Fearing retaliation against Americans abroad, authorities had already tightened security before the execution of Kasi.
Kasi spent the day in a cell, only a few feet from Virginia’s death chamber, meeting two of his brothers, his attorneys and his spiritual adviser, a local peshimam. The imam also spent Wednesday night with Kasi, reciting the holy Quran.
Kasi had been fasting since Nov 6. For his last Iftar, he requested pilaf, bananas, boiled eggs and naan.
Then he spoke with his ailing mother in Quetta by telephone.
The State Department urged Americans in Pakistan to “exercise maximum caution and take prudent measures.”
Some Pakistani politicians had pleaded with American officials to spare Kasi’s life, saying commutation could “win the hearts of millions” and help the United States in its war on terrorism.
Thousands of people gathered at Kasi’s home in Quetta to mourn his death.
In a recent interview, Kasi had opposed any retaliation for his execution, but also said he felt he was justified in his attack.
“I don’t encourage people to attack anybody,” Kasi said in a phone conversation from prison. “I feel sorry and sad for the families of the victims. I don’t say that I feel happy or proud for it.”
Kasi said the killings were an attack on the US government, not individuals, for its policies in the Middle East. The attack “showed the US government that officials can get hurt in the United States also,” he said.
Three chemicals, injected into his body at 9:04pm, took three minutes to end his life. “The first was designed to render him unconscious, the second to stop his breathing and the third to stop his heart,” a prison official said.
Kasi entered the death chamber at 8:58pm, reciting the kalima (the Islamic declaration of faith): “There is no god but God and Muhammad is His prophet.”
Before succumbing to the lethal injection, he raised his middle finger — mistaken by some of the witnesses as a victory sign. However, in Islam raising the middle finger is a way of silently proclaiming: “There’s only one God.”
Witnesses said it was a very peaceful gesture and there was no sign of agitation in it.
“But he definitely appeared sad,” said Guy Taylor of The Washington Times, who watched the execution.
Larry Traylor, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Corrections, said Kasi had spent his final hour with a spiritual adviser, reading the verses of the Quran. He also chanted a Quranic verse, meaning: “To God we belong and to Him we return.”
Earlier, he had a long meeting with his two brothers — Hmaeedullah Kasi and Mir Wais Kasi — who had travelled from Pakistan to be with him in his last hours. The brothers were asked to leave the prison at 3pm. They waited outside, with a local Pakistan professor, Mian Saeed, and his wife.
On his way to the death chamber, Kasi had a brief conversation — about 15 to 20 seconds — with the imam.
“He appeared nervous, and his breathing was laboured when he entered the death chamber,” according to Traylor but other witnesses said he was calm and showed no sign of nervousness.
Because of security threats, guards with assault rifles manned the half-mile path to the prison, and three Virginia state troopers also stayed with Kasi in the room.
All journalists covering the event were searched by state officials and asked to provide their press identification.
Two state officials — one on the phone with the governor’s office and the other watching a fax machine linked to the Supreme Court — also remained in the room, waiting for a possible last-minute order to stay the execution. None arrived.
In addition to the four journalists allowed inside the chamber, about 100 other reporters and 15 satellite trucks waited outside the prison for the news of the execution.
A small group of protesters also observed an hour-long vigil, holding candles. Most of them represented groups opposing death penalty. “Life is sacred, don’t kill,” said a placard held by death penalty opponent Virginia Rovnyak.
Prison authorities allowed 10 men to watch the execution, four from the media and six state witnesses. All the witnesses were white males. There was no Muslim among them.
Kasi walked into the death chamber and was then placed down onto the gurney by the troopers. At this stage, he appeared silent but calm. “I never saw any nervousness,” said Chris Gordon of Washington’s WRC-TV/Channel 4, one of the witnesses to the execution.
The witnesses said that throughout the procedure, Kasi kept on reciting the Quran. “We did not see him stop moving his mouth,” one witness said.
The body was taken to the state medical examiner’s office in Richmond, Va., and after an autopsy it was turned over to his brothers.
The brothers plan to take the body to Pakistan for burial in their ancestral graveyard in Quetta, a scene of violent protest against the execution since Tuesday.
Earlier on Thursday, Virginia Governor Mark Warner denied Kasi’s clemency request, saying he had admitted his crimes but shown no remorse for his actions.
“After a thorough review of Mr Kasi’s petition for clemency and the judicial opinions regarding this case, I have concluded that the death penalty is appropriate in this instance. I will not intervene,” Warner said in a statement.
The US Supreme Court on Thursday denied an appeal by Kasi. Kasi’s lawyers had mounted a last-minute legal challenge, but by an apparent 7-2 vote, the court denied it. Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Ginsburg said they would have granted the stay to consider legal issues raised by Kasi’s lawyers.
Prosecutors said Kasi, a courier-agency employee in Fairfax County, Virginia, was upset at US policies abroad, particularly their effect on Muslim countries, when he went on his killing spree.
Kasi was convicted of killing CIA communications worker Frank Darling, 28, and CIA analyst and physician Lansing Bennett, 66, as they sat in their cars at a stoplight outside CIA headquarters in McLean, Virginia. Three other men were wounded as Kasi walked along the row of stopped cars, shooting into them with an AK-47 assault rifle.
He fled the United States and spent most of the next four years hiding in and around the city of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. He was caught in a restaurant — Shalimar — in D.G. Khan in 1997. His relatives blamed a local influential family for trapping Kasi and said the family received $2 million from US authorities as reward. The family denies the charge.
FUNERAL PRAYERS: The Namaz-i-Janaza of Kasi was held in Richmond, Virginia, after the Juma prayers.
After the execution the body was taken to the state medical examiner’s office in Richmond and after an autopsy it was turned over to Kasi’s brothers.
A large number of Pakistanis and local Muslims participated in his funeral prayers, held at the Richmond Islamic Center, about 106 miles south of Washington.
His body would be flown to Lahore on Saturday evening on a PIA flight that leaves New York’s JFK airport at 9pm. From Lahore, the body will be taken to Karachi and then to Quetta, his family sources said.
Kasi’s two brothers would also travel with the body, the sources said.