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Kidnapped Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl dead, State Department says

RICHARD PYLE, Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl is dead, the State Department said Thursday. Pakistani authorities said a videotape indicated he had been killed by the Islamic extremists who kidnapped him a month ago.

Reaction to the announcement was swift. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf ordered security forces to apprehend “each and every one of the gang of terrorists” involved in Pearl’s killing. In Beijing, President Bush said “all Americans are sad and angry to learn of the murder.”

“May God bless Daniel Pearl,” Bush said.

Pearl, 38, was kidnapped in the Pakistani port city of Karachi on Jan. 23. The interior minister of the Sindh province, which includes Karachi, said the videotape “contained scenes showing Mr. Pearl in captivity and scenes of his murder by the kidnappers.”

“The tape appears to be correct,” said the minister, Mukhtar Ahmad Sheikh.

Pearl’s parents and two sisters said they were “shocked and saddened” by the news.

“Up until a few hours ago, we were confident that Danny would return safely, for we believe that no human being could be capable of harming such a gentle soul,” they said in a statement.

Pearl, whose pregnant wife is also a journalist, was abducted after arranging to interview the leader of a radical Muslim faction with purported ties to the al-Qaida terrorist network and terror suspect Richard C. Reid. In December, Reid was arrested on a Paris-Miami flight he allegedly boarded with explosives in his shoes.

Pakistani police have seized several suspects, including an extremist who said in court that he engineered Pearl’s abduction.

In Washington, the State Department said the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan received evidence Thursday that Pearl is dead, but spokesman Richard Boucher provided no details on the evidence.

Two U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a videotape purportedly showed Pearl either dead or being killed, and the FBI was evaluating the tape’s authenticity. It was not immediately clear when the tape was made.

In a statement, the Journal said Pearl’s “murder is an act of barbarism that makes a mockery of everything Danny’s kidnappers claimed to believe in. They claimed to be Pakistani nationalists, but their actions must surely bring shame to all true Pakistani patriots.”

The Journal statement, signed by Publisher Peter Kann and Managing Editor Paul Steiger, called Pearl “an outstanding colleague, a great reporter, and a dear friend of many at the Journal.”

“We will, in coming months, find ways, public and private, to celebrate the great work and good works Danny did. But today is a day to grieve,” it said.

Journal spokesman Steve Goldstein said he did not know if a body had been recovered.

In Beijing, a grim-faced President Bush decried Pearl’s slaying and said such crimes “only deepen the resolve of the United States” to fight terrorism. He spoke Friday, on the last day of his six-day Asia tour.

Musharraf’s office said the Pakistani president “offered his heartfelt condolences to the wife of Mr. Pearl, his family and to the editors and journalists of the Wall Street Journal.”

The killing “will not deter him, his government and the people of Pakistan from acting with all their strength against terrorists and in fighting this menace together with the international community,” the statement said.

Pakistani officials said there were indications that Pearl had been lured into a trap by false information.

Four days after Pearl disappeared, an e-mail sent to Pakistani and international media showed photos of him in captivity and demanded that the United States repatriate Pakistanis captured in Afghanistan and detained at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

A second e-mail sent Jan. 30 said Pearl would be killed in 24 hours. That was the last known message from his captors.

On Feb. 12, Islamic militant Ahmad Omar Saeed Sheikh was arrested in the case. He said during a court hearing that he had engineered Pearl’s abduction to protest Pakistan’s alliance with the United States’ post-Sept. 11 war on terrorism.

“Our country shouldn’t be catering to America’s needs,” the militant said.

According to Pakistani authorities, Saeed, a British-born key figure in an airplane hijacking and hostage incident in 1999, first told them Pearl was alive but later claimed the reporter had been killed in an escape attempt around Jan. 31.

In Karachi, police officials said the investigation was now focusing on Amjad Faruqi, identified by Saeed as the man who actually carried out the kidnapping. Police raided his home last week but found no sign of him.

Police are also looking for a man identified as Hashim Qadeer, whom Pearl knew as Arif. His family claims he was killed in Afghanistan.

Pakistani police say they are unsure how many people may have been involved because individual militants sometimes use aliases and tracking them is difficult.

The State Department said it was working closely with Pakistani authorities.

“Both the United States and Pakistan are committed to identifying all the perpetrators of this crime and bringing them to justice,” spokesman Boucher said.

Pearl’s wife, Mariane, is seven months pregnant with the couple’s first child. A free-lance journalist, she had been working with him in Pakistan.

In the statement issued from their home in California, Pearl’s parents and sisters said: “Danny’s senseless murder is beyond our comprehension. Danny was a beloved son, a brother, an uncle, a husband and a father to a child who will never know him.”

“We’re shocked and saddened about the confirmation that our worst fears have been realized,” the statement said.

Terry Anderson, the former Associated Press reporter who was held hostage for nearly seven years in Lebanon, said Pearl was “a wonderful reporter and a very decent man.”

“This is something that all journalists worry about; it’s something that all journalists think about,” Anderson said. “It is a dangerous profession. We know that. We take risks, we try to take reasonable risks, but they are risks.”

Pearl reported from the United States, Europe and Asia in a 12-year career with the financial daily. Based in Bombay, India, for the past year as the Journal’s bureau chief for South Asia, Pearl was on assignment in Pakistan as part of its coverage of the war on terrorism in neighboring Afghanistan.

The Princeton, N.J., native had worked in western Massachusetts before joining the Journal in Atlanta in 1990. He later reported from Washington, London and Paris — where he wrote about the Middle East — before moving to Asia.


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