Search for remaining suspects in murder shows little progress

Saturday, February 23, 2002

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistan's president vowed on Friday to hunt down every one of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl's kidnappers and to treat terrorism with "an iron hand." Police said they were no longer restrained in the hunt for the kidnappers by concern for the safety of the hostage.

Condolences and expressions of outrage poured out from Pakistan's president, Cabinet ministers, journalists and even some Islamic militant groups after a grisly videotape revealed Pearl's brutal slaying at the hands of extremists nearly a month after his abduction in the southern port city of Karachi.

"This incident has enhanced our resolve and in the days to come, I will deal with all kinds of terrorism with an iron hand," Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf vowed.

Wife makes statement

In a statement Friday, Pearl's widow, Mariane, who is seven months pregnant, said her husband's killers could not defeat his spirit and that she would tell their still unborn son that his father had worked to end terrorism.

Thanking "all of the people throughout the world who have given Danny and me support and encouragement," she said the struggle against terrorism was everyone's responsibility.

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage spoke with her Friday morning, department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

Armitage expressed the State Department's condolences and assured her of "the commitment to bring to justice the people who are responsible for this horrible action," Boucher said.

Four people have been arrested and charged in the case, including a British-born Islamic militant who admitted in court this week that he was behind kidnapping. A huge manhunt is under way for four other suspects, Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider told reporters.

Once they are apprehended, Haider said, "the whole net will be broken."

"We know their names and we know their identity," he added.

Body not found

Yet Pearl's body has not been found, nor was there information on where or when he was killed. The remaining suspects have been able to elude the government's massive dragnet, which had included detention of their family members in an effort to flush them out.

Police searched Friday in a district of Punjab province for Amjad Faruqi, who is believed to have carried out the kidnapping.

Faruqi is believed to have used the alias Imtiaz Siddiqi when he telephoned Pearl twice on the day he was abducted, police said.

Neighbors contacted by telephone in Toba Tek Singh district said Faruqi had recruited young men to train and fight in Afghanistan and Kashmir.

Many Pakistanis believe the crime was staged because of Musharraf's decision last year to back the United States in the war in neighboring Afghanistan, reversing Pakistan's previous position of support for that country's Taliban regime.

The Pearl case has laid bare the pitfalls of Musharraf's goal -- stated in a landmark speech Jan. 12 -- to stamp out Islamic extremism after the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States.

Murder scenes

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, an official in charge of police in Sindh province, which includes Karachi.

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."

On Thursday, one of the jailed suspects in the case, Fahad Naseem, said before a Karachi magistrate that alleged mastermind British-Born Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh told him two days before the kidnapping that he was going to seize someone who is "anti-Islam and a Jew."

With Pearl dead, authorities will feel free to go after the killers with all their might, said Jamil Yousuf, a Karachi businessman who heads a citizen-police liaison committee involved in the investigation.

"We were moving very cautiously earlier as the recovery of Daniel Pearl was our prime objective. Now with his death our entire focus is on arresting the key suspects," he said.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: