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Archive for Friday, February 22, 2002

Pakistani president orders roundup of terrorists in Pearl kidnapping

February 22, 2002

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— Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf ordered security forces Friday to apprehend "each and every one of the gang of terrorists" involved in the slaying of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

Four people have been arrested and charged in the case, and Pakistani authorities had been maintaining for weeks that they were close to solving it. But on Thursday, Pearl's death was confirmed by U.S. and Pakistani authorities.

A videotape received by the U.S. Consulate in the southern port city of Karachi "contained scenes showing Mr. Pearl in captivity and scenes of his murder by the kidnappers," said Mukhtar Ahmad Sheikh, interior minister of Sindh province, which includes Karachi. The U.S. State Department also confirmed Pearl's death.

In the aftermath, there was little sign that Pakistani authorities were on the verge of apprehending the remaining suspects.

Pearl's body has not been found, and no details were immediately available on exactly where or when he was killed. Sheikh said instructions had gone out to all investigation teams "to apprehend the remaining culprits" as quickly as possible.

Federal Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider said investigators are now focusing their attention on four suspects still at large. Once they are apprehended, he said, "the network will be broken."

A Pakistani investigator told The Associated Press that kidnappers killed Pearl by cutting his throat, and then decapitated him. Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said the kidnappers made two videotapes, one longer than the next, that contained graphic images of Pearl's death and the moments afterward. Another source close to the investigation said a tape showed Pearl before he was killed saying into the videocamera, "I am a Jew, my mother is a Jew."

Haider said the video was obtained by a Pakistani journalist who gave it to U.S. authorities.

Security forces will now be able to proceed more vigorously than before because there's no longer a need for extreme caution to protect Pearl's life, said an investigator who spoke on condition of anonymity. He said the investigation is now focusing on finding several suspects believed to be the ones who actually held and killed Pearl.

The 38-year-old Pearl was kidnapped here Jan. 23 while researching links between Pakistani extremists and Richard C. Reid, who was arrested in December on a Paris-Miami flight he allegedly boarded with explosives in his sneakers.

Those already arrested in the case include the alleged mastermind, British-born Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, and three men accused of sending e-mails to news organizations announcing Pearl's kidnapping. On Thursday, one of the jailed suspects, Fahad Naseem, said before a Karachi magistrate that Saeed told him two days before the kidnapping that he was going to seize someone who is "anti-Islam and a Jew."

The kidnappers sent an e-mail Jan. 30 accusing Pearl of being a spy for the Israeli intelligence service, the Mossad. The Journal denied the allegation.

Musharraf ordered security forces "to apprehend each and every member of the gang of terrorists involved in this gruesome murder," his office said in a statement.

Musharraf, who telephoned President Bush to offer condolences, told Pakistan's PTV television Friday that he was "deeply shocked" and said the murder "has enhanced our resolve" to fight terrorism with an "iron hand."

"A much stronger and coordinated action against these groups is required," Haider said, calling Pearl's murder a "professionally executed act of terror."

Pakistani analysts believe the kidnapping was staged to strike back at Musharraf for his support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism in Afghanistan and for his crackdown last month against Islamic extremists in Pakistan.

Saeed, who was taken into custody earlier this month, admitted his role in the kidnapping during a court appearance Feb. 14. Saeed told the judge he did not know Pearl's whereabouts but believed the journalist was dead.

Since Saeed's arrest, the focus of the investigation has shifted to Amjad Faruqi, who is believed to have carried out the kidnapping. Police suspect that Faruqi known to Pearl by the name Imtiaz Siddiqi placed two calls to the journalist on the night he disappeared, apparently making Pearl think a meeting was being set up with a senior Islamic militant.

A Karachi businessman involved in the investigation, Jamil Yousuf, said he met with Pearl shortly before he disappeared. Pearl received the two calls during a meeting at Yousuf's office, and the reporter told the businessman he was going to meet his contact at the Village Restaurant in Karachi. Restaurant employees told police they did not recall seeing Pearl that night.

Faruqi is believed to be a member of Harkat ul-Mujahedeen, a banned Islamic extremist group with ties to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network. Harkat ul-Mujahedeen is active in the struggle against Indian rule in disputed Kashmir, a Himalayan region claimed by both India and Pakistan.

Last week, police raided Faruqi's home village in eastern Punjab province but found no trace of the suspect. They detained Faruqi's two brothers and three other villagers briefly.

Police have mentioned the names of about 10 other suspects. They include Hashim Qadeer, whom Pearl knew as Arif. His family claims, however, that he was killed in Afghanistan.

Complicating the probe, investigators say many of the suspects may be known by aliases. Police admit they are unsure whether one person may appear several times on the suspect list under different names.

Investigators believe, however, that some of the kidnappers may have been involved in the December 1999 hijacking of an Indian Airlines jet to Kandahar, Afghanistan. During that incident, Indian authorities released Saeed and two other Islamic militants in exchange for the 155 passengers and crew. Saeed had been jailed in India in 1994 for kidnapping Western tourists.

Munir Ahmad, a spokesman for the outlawed anti-India Islamic guerrilla group Jaish-e-Mohammad, condemned Pearl's murder.

"No freedom fighter can commit such a heinous crime and those who did so should be awarded maximum punishment," he said.

News reports have said some of the suspects in the Pearl case are believed to have links to Jaish-e-Mohammad.

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