Omar's arrest deepens kidnapping mystery -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Omar’s arrest deepens kidnapping mystery

KARACHI- Contrary to great hopes in the police circles that the arrest of Sheikh Omar Saeed would quickly lead to the recovery of the abducted Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, the interrogation of the chief suspect has further confused the investigators, informed officials said.

The whereabouts of the abducted reporter remain a mystery. The officials further confirmed that Sheikh Omar had presented himself to the Lahore police just before dawn on Tuesday after protracted direct and indirect secret talks with some non-police officials, who later urged senior Punjab and Sindh police to drive Omar to Islamabad where he was to be questioned by some key officials before finally being shifted to Karachi.

Without denying his direct role in trapping Daniel Pearl, Sheikh Omar told his interrogators both in Karachi and Islamabad that he had recommended Daniel’s release from Lahore on February 5 but he was surprised that his colleagues didn’t release the reporter, according to sources having direct knowledge of Daniel’s interrogation.

According to Omar, his personal role in the drama was restricted to the planning of the kidnapping, while the responsibility to keep Daniel at a safer location was with another group and he had no knowledge about the location of the safe house where Daniel was to be kept.

Thirty-six hours after Sheikh Omar’s appearance in Lahore where he volunteered an information that Daniel Pearl is still alive, police were once again not sure about the fate of the abducted journalist.

“Now Omar is also not hundred per cent sure that Daniel is alive so how can we be confident about his present status,” according to a senior police investigator who said that: “I’ll only be sure once I get an independent confirmation about his well being.”

Daniel has plainly refused to provide any other details about his group and his activities since he was released from the Indian prison in late 1999. “You can’t torture me more than what the Indian intelligence did to me. Try it but you wouldn’t get anything from me,” Omar is believed to have told one of his interrogators.

Omar’s investigators are already impressed by his physical fitness as they thought that he would not be bothered by normal physical strains. Omar, a trained Karate expert, also loves boxing and is known to be a reputed instructor in guerrilla warfare.

Indian intelligence had charged him in two separate kidnapping cases of foreigners in New Delhi, but the Indian security services failed to earn a conviction against him even from an Indian court.

Police investigators drew such a blank from Sheikh Omar’s interrogation that about half a dozen police teams that were standing-by to raid locations in Karachi on Omar’s pointation since Tuesday afternoon didn’t hear anything from their bosses till late Wednesday night.

“Omar has denied any knowledge whatsoever about the present location of Daniel and his kidnappers,” said a police investigator. “There is no way we can force him to say things we want to hear.”

Seasoned police investigators believed that Omar’s “confessional remarks” about his role in Daniel Pearl- kidnapping case were just the part of “informal chit chat” as they were absolutely sure that once he is asked to depose before the magistrate or in any court of law, he would not waste time in denying any involvement in the case.”

“This is almost a routine practice which every police official in Pakistan faces in the investigation of high profile criminal cases,” observed a Karachi police investigator who expected a similar response also from three other suspects arrested last week in Karachi for their direct role in sending e-mail messages and Daniel’s pictures, taken on gun point, to major news organisations all over the world.

He adds: “The statements made before the magistrate under the relevant section of the law would have legal merit, rest is just a gossip.”

In a unique similarity to the statements made before police investigators by Sheikh Adil, Fahad Nasim and Salman — three suspects arrested last week, Sheikh Omar also spoke confidently about his role and commitment to Jihadi causes in Afghanistan and Kashmir and played on the religious sentiments of his interrogators by giving lecture on the conspiracies of infidel forces, particularly the United States.

“If left to him he would like all of us to join him in the war against the global infidel forces,” said a police investigator. Investigators say that like other suspects Omar also boasted about his connections with some officials and asked his investigators not to play in the hands of American agents.

In a significant development on Wednesday the Karachi police released Pir Mubarrak Ali Gillani after the Pakistani and American investigators concluded that he had no role in Daniel’s kidnapping.

Daniel’s search for Gillani for an interview had led him to the Omar’s group which trapped him on the pretext of arranging his interview with Pir Gillani, founder of Al-Fuqra organisation.

Soon after surrendering before the police in Rawalpindi, Gillani had boasted about his contribution to several issues relating to the national security and provided more than a dozen names of senior and retired officials for verification of his contribution to state security.

Surprisingly, all main suspects in the Daniel Pearl kidnapping case are making similar claims and urging police officials to be patriotic and religious in their conduct with them as they had devoted their lives to Pakistan and Islam.

Official sources also confirmed that identical claims were also being made by Khalid Khawaja, who was arrested on Monday after The News mentioned his name as one of the key people who were in touch with Daniel Pearl.

Police sources said that no independent evidence was available to suggest Khawaja’s role in Daniel’s kidnapping though they have raised several questions about the scope of his activities in Afghanistan.

Source: The News
Date:2/14/2002