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]."
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