Shaikh Omar held in Pearl kidnapping case: Prime suspect tells police WSJ reporter is alive and in Karachi -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Shaikh Omar held in Pearl kidnapping case: Prime suspect tells police WSJ reporter is alive and in Karachi

KARACHI- Shaikh Muhammad Omar, the prime suspect in Wall Street Journal’s correspondent Daniel Pearl’s kidnapping case, was finally arrested in Lahore on Tuesday evening and shifted to Karachi in the night, police said.

“He was nabbed through a joint operation of my teams and of Lahore police,” Capital City Police Chief Asad Jehangir. “It is a major breakthrough. Now we would be able to resolve the kidnapping case,” he added. To a question, he said: “So far we have not initiated any recovery operation anywhere in Karachi for Pearl.”

Shaikh Omar was first taken to Islamabad from Lahore on a special flight, from where he was flown to Karachi at 9:10 pm. About 150 newsmen were present at the airport but they were not allowed to speak to the suspect. Omar was taken away to an unknown destination from VIP gate of the airport by the Anti-Terrorist Wing of the police.

Also on Tuesday, the police produced accused Fahad, Adeel and Salman in the Sindh High Court amid extraordinarily security. The court remanded them to police custody till February 25.

Sajjad Shafiq Butt adds from Lahore: The prime suspect in the kidnapping of the American journalist was arrested from Defence Housing Society, police said.

The suspect, a Pak-Briton and a London School of Economics graduate Muhammad Omar Saeed Sheikh was the mastermind behind the abduction of the Mumbai-based Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl.

The smooth-faced accused with altogether changed appearance, was handed over to the Sindh police working on the case with the assistance of various national and foreign intelligence agencies.

“Sheikh Omar has been handed over to a team of Sindh police which have left for Karachi,” said Lahore Range Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Javed Noor. However, he was reluctant to divulge the details of the arrest or whether the abducted journalist had been recovered.

“Omar had disguised himself and it was very difficult to recognise him,” said Javed Noor. Although at the Lahore International Airport there was no unusual activity, yet the authorities insisted that the suspect had been despatched to Karachi. Omar’s two houses at Mohini Road and Johar Town were silent and the activities in and around them seemed normal.

“We do not know anything about the family except that they are descent people and ran various businesses including export of garments,” a Mohini Road resident said. He had no idea who Omar was or what had he done?

According to the sources, the teams raiding Omar’s Johar Town house had found solid proof of his involvement in Daniel’s kidnapping. However, it was early to say something as how many people were working for him, sources said. They added that the pressure on his family seemed to be the main reason of his arrest.

“During the abduction, Omar was accompanied by his wife and a minor baby, and it was very difficult for him to sustain under these circumstances,” sources said and hinted that he might have courted arrest.

A top official of an intelligence agency said to wait for sometime for the answers to many questions. However, he said that Daniel was alive and well and would be recovered soon. About Omar’s family members, the official said that they were cooperative during the investigations. They were decent people and Omar was a “wild card” among them.

The journalist Daniel Pearl along with his wife and a partner Anisa Noumani had landed in Karachi to cover a story about the connections of various religious parties and jihadi groups with the most wanted men of Al-Qaeda.

Staying at a five star hotel, Daniel left his room on Jan 23 and went missing under incomprehensible circumstances. As soon as the process of investigations was launched, it became clear that Omar was involved in the abduction.

Omar was released from Indian custody along with Maulana Masood Azhar, the founder leader of Jaish-e-Muhammad, and Mushtaq Zargar, in consideration of 155 passengers of an Indian Airliner hijacked to the southern Afghan city of Kandahar.

Pakistani Authorities believed that Omar had some links with Jaish-e-Muhammad. However, the people of Jaish denied of having any link with the kidnappers. Agencies add: Omar’s arrest “is a significant achievement in the case,” Noorani said, adding that “we have to wait” to learn about Pearl’s fate.

The White House on Tuesday renewed its demand the “immediate and unconditional” release of Daniel Pearl as police searched Karachi for the abducted US reporter. “The United States continues to call for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr Pearl,” said spokesman Ari Fleischer, who told reporters that US President George Bush “hopes that this matter will be resolved.”

Noting that Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf would meet with Bush on Wednesday, Fleischer added: “the cooperation of the Pakistan government and security forces has been very strong and very helpful.”

“The United States continues to very closely monitor what is happening with the kidnapping of Mr Pearl,” the spokesman said from the White House podium. “He’s a journalist who was doing his job and, as I’ve said before from here, it’s a reminder about the risks and the dangers that journalists face in doing their job around the world,” said Fleischer.

Source: The News
Date:2/13/2002