Convicts in Pearl case did not kill him, claims NGO
WASHINGTON: The four men convicted of murdering US journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan nine years ago did not carry out the beheading, a study has found.
A report by the Centre for Public Integrity, Washington, instead identified a senior Al Qaeda leader, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, as the man who beheaded the Wall Street Journal reporter in Pakistan.
Khalid Sheikh, who is also suspected of planning the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, had earlier confessed to killing the 38-year-old journalist.
But a British national of Pakistani descent, Omar Saeed Sheikh, and three others were convicted of his murder. Omar Sheikh was sentenced to death, while the others were handed life terms.
A team of experts working on the investigation, known as the Pearl Project, determined that Pakistani authorities had persuaded a taxi driver to change his earlier account and say he saw Omar Sheikh near a Karachi restaurant where Mr Pearl was kidnapped.
While Omar Sheikh has admitted helping to organise the kidnapping, he has always denied being in Karachi when it took place.
Mr Pearl was abducted from Karachi in January 2002 while researching an extremist group. A month later a video of his killing was sent to US officials in Pakistan. But the man beheading Mr Pearl wore a mask on his face.
The Centre for Public Integrity, however, reported that the FBI and CIA used ‘vein-matching’ – a technique that compared Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s hand with that of the killer – to corroborate Sheikh’s confession made four years ago.
The Pearl Project also identified 27 men who played a part in Mr Pearl’s execution. The report also found that members of at least three militant groups took part in the crime, including a team of kidnappers led by Omar Sheikh, who offered to introduce Mr Pearl to militant leaders, and a team of killers led by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Khalid Sheikh told FBI agents in Guantanamo he personally slit Mr Pearl’s throat and severed his head to make certain he’d get the death penalty to exploit the killing for propaganda.