Arab arrested in US journalist case -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Arab arrested in US journalist case

RAWALPINDI- Local police arrested an Arab said to be involved in the kidnapping of US journalist Daniel Pearl here on Wednesday night. Police along with the FBI was interrogating him till late in the night.

Well placed sources claimed that Hannan Ahmad, the detained Arab, was directly involved in the kidnapping of Pearl. The sources claimed that the accused was the activist of banned militant Jihadi organisation, Jaish-e-Mohammad. They said during preliminary interrogation the arrested person had given some solid tips which could lead to the release of Daniel Pearl. He was one of the main kidnappers, police claimed.

Sheikh Omar, a leader of the Jaish-e-Mohammad, has emerged as a chief suspect behind the kidnapping of US journalist Daniel Pearl, investigators said Wednesday. Sources involved in the police investigation said three men arrested here overnight had identified Omar as the source of e-mails containing photographs of Pearl in captivity.

“They have told investigators that they sent the e-mails with photographs on the directives of Sheikh Omar,” one investigator said, on condition of anonymity. He said police later raided Omar’s in-laws’ house in the eastern city of Lahore and arrested some of his relatives.

The three arrests in this southern port city, where the Wall Street Journal reporter was last seen 14 days ago, could lead to a “breakthrough” in the search, police said.

The investigation has so far led to 13 arrests, including six in Karachi, five in Lahore and two in Islamabad, but Pearl’s fate remained unknown. Karachi police chief Tariq Jamil told that information gleaned during “intense interrogation” of the three detained Tuesday night indicated, for the first time, that the kidnapping was the work of “a group and not a few individuals”.

Police named the three as former police intelligence officer Adil Sheikh, and cousins Suleman Saqib and Fawad (eds: one name) who were said to be members of Jaish-e-Mohammad. A previously unknown group calling itself the Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty claimed responsibility for the abduction in two e-mails last week.

They threatened to kill Pearl by last Thursday, later extending the deadline to Friday, unless Pakistanis captured in Afghanistan and former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Salam Zaeef were released from US custody.

The group has not been heard from since, but police, who are being assisted by US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents, believe Pearl is still alive and being held somewhere in Karachi.

Police on Tuesday also named three other militants — Mohammad Hashim Qadeer, Mohammad Bashir and Imtiaz Siddiqui — as “prime suspects” but they have not been found. They were involved in arranging an interview between Pearl, 38, and Mubarak Ali Shah Gilani, leader of another little-known militant Muslim group, Tanzeem-ul-Fuqra. Gilani has also been detained and questioned.

Sheikh Omar, who was born in England and educated at the London School of Economics, was said by police to be a leading figure in the Jaish-e-Mohammad, although little is known about the 29-year-old from East London.

He has not been seen since he left his Lahore home with his wife and two-month-old child four days before Pearl was abducted. Jaish-e-Mohammad Wednesday denied any link with Omar and said it was not involved in the kidnapping.

“We target military personnel and installations” in Kashmir, spokesman Rana Farooq Tahir said that Omar had been arrested in New Delhi in 1993 after kidnapping three tourists he hoped to swap for jailed Muslim militant Maulana Masood Azhar. Both were freed in 1999 in exchange for hostages on a hijacked Indian Airlines plane in Afghanistan.

Source: The News