Kidnapped Reporter Daniel Pearl Dead

ByABC News

Feb. 21, 2002 -- Daniel Pearl, the U.S. reporter who was abducted in Pakistan last month by a previously unknown group of militants, is dead.

"We now believe, based on reports from the U.S. State Department and police officials of the Pakistani province of Sind, that Danny Pearl was killed by his captors," Peter R. Kann, publisher of The Wall Street Journal, and Paul E. Steiger, managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, said in a statement.

"We are heartbroken at his death," they said.

Sources told ABCNEWS a videotape purporting to show the body of Pearl, The Wall Street Journal's South Asia bureau chief, was in the possession of FBI agents in Karachi, Pakistan.

Authorities in surrounding Sind province said they obtained the tape today, but it is not clear when the tape was made. The tape was initially in the possession of two men, who initially approached a Pakistani journalist.

The two men were put under surveillance, and an FBI agent posed as a journalist to get ahold of the tape and the men, sources said.

A senior law enforcement official told ABCNEWS that the videotape clearly showed a face that looks like Pearl. When the video begins, sources said, he is alive. He is killed on the tape.

Pearl's body has not yet been recovered. The United States does not have an extradition treaty with Pakistan, but sources in the State Department told ABCNEWS they were outraged by Pearl's death, and that they would work with the Pakistani government to bring those responsible to justice.

In a statement issued this afternoon, Pearl's family said they were "shocked and saddened" by his death.

"Up until a few hours ago we were confident that Danny would return safely, for we believed no human being would be capable of harming such a gentle soul," they said.

President Bush, on a state visit to Beijing, and Attorney General John Ashcroft also expressed sorrow over Pearl's death.

"Laura and I and the American people are deeply saddened tolearn about the loss of Daniel Pearl's life. We are really sad forhis wife and his parents and his friends and colleagues who havebeen clinging to hope for weeks that he would be found alive," Bush said. "… Those who would threaten Americans, those who would engage in criminal, barbaric acts need to know that these crimes only hurt their cause and only deepen the resolve of the United States of America to rid the worldof these agents of terror."

Pearl's pregnant wife, Mariane, who has remained in Pakistan throughout his abduction, was told of her husband's death early this morning.

A Casualty in the Search for Truth

Pearl, 38, was abducted on Jan. 23 en route to a meeting in Karachi with Islamic extremists.

He was working on a story on Richard Reid, a Briton who was arrested on a Paris-to-Miami flight in December after he allegedly tried to ignite explosives hidden in his sneakers.

It is believed Pearl was seeking an interview with Mubarak Ali Shah Gilani, the leader of the radical Islamic group Jamaat al-Fuqra, with whom Reid may have been connected.

Four days later, a previously unknown group calling itself the National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty sent an e-mail to Pakistani and international media showing Pearl in captivity. One of the photos showed Pearl with a gun pointed to his head.

In its e-mail, the group demanded that the United States repatriate Pakistanis captured in Afghanistan who are being held at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

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

Mariane Pearl issued statements pleading with her husband's kidnappers to release him or "at least let me know how he is doing."

Calling her husband a "peace-loving" man who never harmed anyone and had "come to you as a guest with an open mind and the sole objective of writing about your views for a global audience," Mrs. Pearl issued her appeal as "a wife and expectant mother."

A Strong Trail Followed

In the weeks after his kidnapping, Pakistani police identified and jailed several suspects they believed were directly responsible for his kidnapping.

Just days after the kidnapping, they arrested three people arrested for sending the e-mails announcing Pearl's abduction.

Last week, they jailed Sheik Omar Saeed, a British national who they believe planned and provided the finances for the snatch operation.

The day after his arrest, Saeed told a Pakistani court that Pearl was dead.

Authorities had said they were looking for a man named Imtiaz Siddiqui, who they believe abducted Pearl from a Karachi restaurant.

Pakistani investigators believe Siddiqui, along with a man who goes by the alias Choudrey Bashir, acted as intermediaries in Pearl's efforts to get an interview with Gilani.

The four people being held in Pearl's kidnapping are due to appear in a Pakistani court on Monday.

ABCNEWS' Martha Raddatz at the State Department, Pierre Thomas and Beverly Lumpkin at Justice, Richard Gizbert in Karachi., and the I-Team contributed to this report.

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