Pakistanis seek accomplice in Pearl case

Saturday, February 16, 2002

KARACHI, Pakistan -- With the suspected ringleader in the kidnapping of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in custody, police said Friday they are looking for an accomplice who helped hijack an Indian Airlines jet in 1999.

The hijacking accomplished its goal of freeing Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh -- the alleged mastermind of Pearl's abduction -- from an Indian prison.

Pakistan's interior minister, Moinuddin Haider, predicted a "major breakthrough" in the three-week kidnapping and more arrests within 48 hours. The minister rejected a claim by Saeed that the 38-year-old reporter is dead.

Steve Goldstein, spokesman for Dow Jones & Co., the Journal's parent organization, said Friday the company was hopeful. "We remain confident that Danny is still alive," he said.

Saeed admitted his role in the kidnapping during a court appearance Thursday and said "as far as I understand" Pearl is dead. A Pakistani newspaper, quoting an unidentified "senior official," said Saeed learned of Pearl's death Feb. 5 during a phone call to an accomplice who was holding the journalist.

On Friday, a senior police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the search was focusing on two suspected Islamic militants -- Mohammed Hashim Qadeer and Imtiaz Siddiqi.

Both were believed to have met Pearl last month while he was researching a story on links between Pakistani militants and Richard C. Reid, the so-called "shoe bomber" arrested for allegedly trying to detonate explosives in his sneakers during a Paris to Miami flight in December.

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