Prime suspect arrested in journalist's death

Pakistani man is accused of luring Pearl in '02 to meeting with captor


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - A prime suspect in the kidnapping and killing of Daniel Pearl was arrested yesterday by Pakistani intelligence agents, officials said. Mohammad Hashim Qadeer is accused of arranging a first meeting between Pearl and Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh at a hotel in Rawalpindi, a city near the capital of Islamabad.

Pearl, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, was later lured by Sheikh to a January 2002 meeting in the southern port city of Karachi, where he was abducted and, eventually, beheaded.

Sheikh and three defendants were convicted of the murder. However, Sheikh was the only one who received a death sentence.

He remains in jail on appeal, to the frustration of Pearl's parents, who noted recently that the hearing for his appeal was recently adjourned for the 32nd time.

In the wake of the July 7 bombings in London, Pakistani authorities have come under heavy pressure to show they are cracking down on extremists.

Three of the bombers in those attacks were British citizens of Pakistani descent and had visited Pakistan in the last year. Pakistani officials say 600 extremists have been rounded up in the crackdown.

Qadeer, a militant belonging to a banned extremist group, Harkat-ul-Mujahedeen, was arrested in the eastern city of Gujranwala in Punjab province early yesterday morning, an intelligence official said.

Harkat was designated a terrorist organization by the United States in October 2001.

The Pakistani police named Qadeer as one of the three "prime suspects" in the Pearl killing, which became known in February 2002. "Qadeer was nabbed while he was sitting in a commuter bus headed for Rawalpindi," the official said, adding that Qadeer said he was traveling to Kashmir.

Pakistani officials believe that Qadeer met Pearl in Rawalpindi and lured him by promising to arrange an interview with Mubarik Ali Shah Gilani.

Gilani is an Islamic cleric who has ties with "shoe bomber" Richard C. Reid. Reid was accused of trying to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight in December 2001 with explosives-laden sneakers.

Another suspect in the Pearl murder case, Amjad Hussain Farooqi, who was also involved in an assassination attempt on the president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, was fatally shot by Pakistani law enforcement agencies in the southern city of Nawab Shah last year.

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