Conflicting reports over the fate of kidnapped Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl emerged today as an e-mail said he had been killed and another message demanded $2 million for his release.
Neither of the reports could be verified.
CNN said it received an e-mail from those purportedly holding Pearl, saying he had been killed. In the e-mail, Pearl's alleged kidnappers said he was killed as "collateral damage" for the people in Afghanistan the United States had killed in the war on terrorism.
"It seems that the American government is not interested even in the life of its own citizens," the e-mail said. "We have killed Mr. Danny now Mr. Bush can find his body in the grave yards of Karachi we have thrown him there"
Steve Goldstein, spokesman for Dow Jones, which owns the Journal, said, "We've seen the latest reports, and we remain hopeful they are not true."
Meanwhile, investigators are looking into a call made six hours before the e-mail was sent that demanded $2 million within 36 hours in exchange for Pearl's release. The call, which also called for the release of the former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, was received at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad.
The e-mail has been given to counter-intelligence officials to examine. U.S. officials are disturbed by the latest reports, particularly the e-mail, because it was similar in language and style to the previous messages. But officials are also aware that the e-mail and phone messages may be hoaxes.
The Pakistani government has said the Pearl case was its main criminal priority. There were 70 Pakistani agents on the case, and three FBI agents working with them, officials said.
"We are working with the Pakistan government to chase down any leads possible — for example, trying to follow the trail of the e-mails that have been sent, with the sole purpose of saving this man, of finding him and rescuing" him, President Bush said today.
Apparent Kidnappers Had Threatened Death
In separate e-mail received Wednesday, the apparent kidnappers said Pearl would be killed within 24 hours if their demands were not met. They extended that deadline in an e-mail that arrived Thursday morning, but did not give a specific time for the deadline.
"We give U 1 more day," the unsigned message said, according to a copy obtained by ABCNEWS. "If America will not meet our demands we will kill Daniel. Then this cycle will continue and no American journalist could enter Pakistan."
While previous e-mails contained photos of Pearl with a gun to his head, today's latest e-mail had no attachments. The previous e-mails, issued in the name of the National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty, accused Pearl of being a member of the CIA, and then Israel's intelligence agency, Mossad. Wednesday's message also criticized the United States for not providing lawyers and trials for Pakistanis detained on terrorism-related charges.
Pearl, 38, normally based in India, disappeared on Jan. 23 after going alone to a meeting with a contact on a story in Karachi, Pakistan.
The New Jersey native's wife, Marianne, is six months pregnant with their first child.
"I want to remind [the kidnappers] that my husband and I are both journalists," Marianne Pearl said Wednesday. "All my life, all his life and our life together is just a big effort to try to create dialogue between civilization[s]."
U.S. Won’t Negotiate
Secretary of State Colin Powell on Thursday reiterated U.S. policy not to negotiate with the group over their demands.
"The demands that the kidnappers have placed are not demands that we can either deal with or get into a negotiation about," Powell told reporters.
The demands — made in a series of three e-mails to media outlets earlier in the week — have included better treatment of U.S.-held prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; the return of some prisoners to Pakistan for trial; and the departure of U.S. journalists from Pakistan within two days.
Authorities could not confirm that the e-mails came from the actual kidnappers, but a source close to the investigation told The Associated Press they believe they did.
Key Figure in Pearl's Disappearance Dies
The investigation was dealt a potential setback Thursday when police revealed a potential witness known as Arif, who had met with Pearl on several occasions to arrange some meetings, died under suspicious circumstances. The family told police he died in Afghanistan several days ago, but it's not clear what happened to the body, sources said.
Investigators are skeptical about the family's claim, and believe Arif may have been assassinated by the kidnappers, who could have feared he would be a witness against them.
Pearl's own computer and his cell phone records are also being studied to determine who he communicated with in the days leading up to his disappearance.
"All the people with whom he had contact or all the fixers or go-betweens we are trying to reach," said Moinuddin Haider, Pakistan's interior minister. "We have contacted these people and we are piecing this information together."
Tracing His Tracks
FBI and Pakistani officials had been questioning Sheik Mubarak Ali Gilani, the religious leader Pearl was trying to interview when he disappeared last week. Investigators have seized the sheik's computer and are studying its contents looking for clues as to who might have abducted Pearl.
Telephone records from Gilani's mobile phone indicate he, as the chief suspect in the case, was in contact with three Indian government officials, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar said today in Germany.
Gilani "made a number of foreign calls and included among the numbers that he had called in India were numbers of persons who occupied certain important positions inside the Indian government," Sattar said at a news conference in Berlin, where he was meeting with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer.
Gilani, the leader of the militant Islamic group Jamaat al-Fuqra, has maintained his innocence under interrogations being carried out in Karachi, a police official said.
The Indian government has denied there is any connection with Gilani.
ABCNEWS' Bob Woodruff in Islamabad, Pakistan, contributed to this report.