Journalist is killed by his captors

FBI has videotape that shows Pearl being stabbed

`Act of barbarism'

He vanished Jan. 23 on way to interview a source in Pakistan

February 22, 2002|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

Daniel Pearl, The Wall Street Journal reporter abducted in Pakistan four weeks ago, has been killed by his captors, according to Pakistani and U.S. officials. A videotape delivered to Pakistani officials late Wednesday and now in the possession of FBI agents gives unambiguous proof of his death, officials said.

Executives of the Journal and its parent company, Dow Jones, issued a statement calling the killing "an act of barbarism." The videocassette was delivered to police in the Sindh province late Wednesday by someone posing as a journalist, officials said. It is being studied by local authorities and by FBI agents seeking to capture the kidnappers.

The undated videocassette contained graphic images of Pearl being fatally stabbed, government officials said, providing "incontrovertible evidence" of his death. The delivery of the cassette ended a month of uncertainty punctuated by unfounded reports of Pearl's condition and the likelihood of his safe return.

The case of Pearl, who was 38 and had been the Journal's South Asia bureau chief for about two years, had been the subject of high-level attention by American and Pakistani officials, and its end seemed likely to prompt new American pressure on Pakistan to crack down hard on the Islamic militants believed to have carried out the crime.

His killing appears to have been intended as part of a campaign of retaliation by Pakistani militants against President Pervez Musharraf, who has turned his back on the Taliban and on other extremists who have long had ties with the Pakistani government. It also served as an affront to Musharraf's prestige, since his government had expressed optimism that the case would be solved and Pearl returned unharmed.

Shortly after the abduction, which took place Jan. 23, the kidnappers began communicating through e-mail messages. They accused Pearl of being an agent of first the CIA and then Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency.

Among the steps American officials are said to be considering is a request to Pakistan to extradite the prime suspect in the case to the United States for trial. He is Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, a British-born militant who told a Pakistani court that he had been involved in the crime.

In Beijing this morning, President Bush released a statement expressing condolences to Pearl's wife and family. "Those who would threaten Americans ... those who would engage in criminal, barbaric acts, need to know that these crimes only hurt their cause and only deepen the resolve of the United States of America to rid the world of these agents of terror," he said.

In California, Pearl's family - his father, mother, and two sisters - released a statement saying, "We're shocked and saddened about the confirmation that our worst fears have been realized." Pearl's wife, Mariane, is seven months pregnant with their first child.

Paul E. Steiger, managing editor of the Journal, and Peter R. Kann, chief executive of the parent company, Dow Jones, issued a brief statement of Pearl's death. "We are heartbroken at his death," Steiger told reporters. "Today is a day to grieve."

Pearl, whose parents moved to America from Israel but remain Israeli citizens, was born in Princeton, N.J., and went to high school in the Los Angeles suburb of Van Nuys. He enrolled in Stanford University in 1981, majoring in communications, and was host of late-night musical programs for the campus radio station.

At the Journal, which he joined in 1990 after working for a series of small Massachusetts newspapers, he made his reputation doing quirky news features that often appeared on the paper's front page.

Pearl disappeared in Karachi on his way to a meeting with a Muslim militant, as part of a reporting project related to Richard C. Reid, the man who was arrested on a Paris-to-Miami flight in December with explosives in his shoes.

On Jan. 25, an e-mail sent to Pakistani and foreign news organizations showed photographs of Pearl in captivity. One of the photographs showed Pearl with a gun pointed to his head.

That e-mail, and another Jan. 30, included demands for the freeing of Pakistani and other militants who have been captured in Afghanistan and who are being held at the American naval base in Cuba.

The second e-mail warned that the reporter would be killed within 24 hours if the demands were not met. That was the last known message from the captors.

As late as last week, Saeed, the chief suspect in Pearl's abduction, told police investigators in Karachi that Pearl was alive. But during a court hearing the next day, Saeed changed his story and said, "As far as I understand, he's dead."

In a Karachi court yesterday, one of the Islamic militants accused in the kidnapping told a judge that Pearl had been abducted because he was "anti-Islam and a Jew," according to a defense lawyer.

The militant, Farhad Naseem, is suspected of playing no more than a supporting role in the case. But his defense attorney, Khawaja Naveed Ahmed, said that in a closed-door deposition to a Karachi judge, Naseem had admitted to sending e-mails announcing the kidnapping. He said he sent the e-mails under orders from Saeed.

Naseem is among four people, including Saeed, who are in police custody and have been charged in the case.

Another defendant in the case has been identified as Sheikh Mohammad Adeel, a constable with a branch of the Karachi police force that holds responsibility for counterterrorism. All are thought to have links to an extremist organization called Jaish-e-Mohammed, of which Saeed is thought to be a leader.

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