Captors say Pearl is alive WSJ seeks proof; two taxi drivers detained for interrogation -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Captors say Pearl is alive WSJ seeks proof; two taxi drivers detained for interrogation

KARACHI- Hopes were raised on Saturday that kidnapped US journalist Daniel Pearl was still alive, as police dismissed a claim that he had been executed and a cryptic message from his captors said he “is (may be) alive.”

Pearl’s employer, the Wall Street Journal, said it believed that he was still alive and pleaded for a resumption of dialogue with the kidnappers. “Based on reports from Pakistan, we now believe that both of the messages received yesterday (Friday) about Danny were false. We continue to believe that Danny is alive,” the daily’s Managing Editor, Paul Steiger, said in a statement in New York. “Yet we have not heard from Danny’s captors in two or three days.”

“We think they believe that Danny is a journalist — nothing more or less. We hope they realise that Danny can also explain what they want to tell the world. When they release Danny, he can share that message,” Steiger said.

Sindh Home Secretary Brigadier Mukhtar Shaikh said that police had dismissed an e-mail, claiming Pearl had been executed, but were still following a telephone ransom demand for $2 million. “We now rule out the possibility that he has been killed as claimed by the kidnappers,” Sheikh said. He said that police had searched all graveyards in Karachi and found no evidence of the reporter’s body.

Steiger asked the captors to provide proof that he had not been killed. “They can do this by providing us with a photo of Danny holding today’s newspaper,” he said. “We remain eager to continue communication that will lead to Danny’s release. That dialogue can be public or private. It can be direct or through a trusted intermediary. We should now resume that dialogue,” he added.

Meanwhile, a new e-mail sent by the kidnappers on Saturday suggested Pearl had not been killed, but was not explicit. “Pearl is (may be) alive and make real efforts to get him out,” a copy of the message seen by a news source said. The e-mail was from the same address as earlier e-mails containing threats to kill Pearl and photographs of him in captivity. Saturday’s unsigned message apologised for one e-mail containing a deadline for Pearl’s execution, but did not explain which of the previous e-mails it referred to. “I am sorry. I sent the email in which the deadline of Daniel. Please pardon me!” the message in broken English said.

Police in Karachi were on Saturday tracing a telephone call made to the US embassy in Islamabad late on Friday demanding a $2 million ransom as well as the release of Taliban’s former ambassador to Pakistan. “We are now investigating the telephone call made to US Embassy in Islamabad and have found some leads, but I cannot give you the details at this stage,” Brigadier Mukhtar Shaikh said.

Police, checking the origin of the e-mails, raided an apartment in Karachi late on Friday and detained two people. But a police official said that they failed to find anything substantive. A Pakistani man, police had wanted to interview, died in mysterious circumstances before they could reach him.

A US Embassy spokesman in Islamabad said on Saturday the reporter’s fate “remained unclear” after the ransom call to the embassy late Friday, hours after an earlier deadline for Pearl’s execution had expired. “We have people looking into that, trying to confirm it,” he said when asked if the call came from the kidnappers.

In Washington, the US Justice Department has been scrutinizing the message e-mailed to CNN, spokesman Bryan Sierra said. “We have received a copy of that e-mail and we are studying it to determine if it’s real or not,” said Sierra.

The US State Department on Saturday reiterated its call for the “immediate and unconditional release” of Pearl. “We hope for Pearl’s immediate and unconditional release,” State Department spokesman Frederick Jones said. He added that the kidnappers’ cause is “not being forwarded by holding him hostage … Their cause will not be advanced by holding a journalist.”

Inspector-General Police Sindh Syed Kamal Shah said all possible efforts were being made for safe recovery of Pearl. On Saturday, the Sindh police chief said that different teams were working on technical and scientific lines to trace Daniel. He said that hundreds of police personnel searched Karachi’s all graveyards and cemeteries for Daniel Pearl. The search continued for the whole night, again this morning and also for the third time but the information had no authenticity, he added.

The Inspector General Police (IGP) said that the two taxi drivers, who carried Daniel and his wife separately and later dropped them near Hotel Metropole, were also interrogated. However, no evidence of the taxi drivers’ involvement in the kidnapping of Daniel was found. “Whenever something concrete about the missing journalist surfaces, the same will be informed to the press immediately,” he said.

Syed Kamal Shah said there were two problems: one, Daniel was not the resident of Karachi, he came here on January 21 and went missing two days later; secondly, he carried out his entire correspondence through e-mail.

Source: The News
Date:2/3/2002