Suspect identifies key ‘go-between’ in Pearl case
KARACHI- The self-confessed mastermind of US journalist Daniel Pearl’s abduction, British-born militant Sheikh Omar, has identified a key “go-between” in the kidnapping, a chief investigator said Friday.
“Police are hunting for a man called Amjad Hussain Farooqi,” the investigator, who is leading the interrogation of Omar, told on condition of anonymity. But Farooqi was not among the six people arrested in raids Friday in this southern port city, where Pearl disappeared on January 23 on his way to interview a little-known militant Islamic leader.
More than three weeks since his abduction Pearl’s fate remains a mystery, amid claims by Omar in court Thursday that he had been killed, and the insistence of police that he must be alive because no corpse has been produced.
Police believe Farooqi collected Pearl by car from a Karachi hotel on January 23 and was the link between a network of cells involved in the abduction. “Omar has revealed this name during intense interrogation as the main go-between operating between those who are keeping Pearl and the rest of the network of kidnappers, including Omar.
“If we get hold of this man we are sure we will solve the mystery.” The investigator said Farooqi, from the eastern Pakistani province of Punjab, is a member of Harkat Jihad-e-Islami, an organisation of Islamic militants who fought alongside the hardline Taliban in Afghanistan.
“He is a jihadi who has been mainly active in Afghanistan,” the investigator said. “He has been living in Karachi … We believe he is still in Karachi.” Intelligence sources believe Harkat Jihad-i-Islami was the main Pakistani backer of the Taliban, whose harsh-five year regime in Afghanistan collapsed under a US-led military campaign late last year.
Police estimate that some 1,800 of its 5,000 members were killed in northern Afghanistan during the US-led airstrikes and the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance offensive. The investigator said Harkat Jihad-i-Islami members are believed to be part of a network of cells involved in the kidnapping. The operation was planned “very intelligently,” using cells unknown to each other, he added.
“We are not dealing with an ordinary group. It is a very well organised gang who had planned their operation seamlessly.” Karachi police chief Shah said unravelling the network would take some time. “You have to understand that it is a network, and to break a network takes time,” he said.
Pakistan’s Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider told reporters in Lahore Friday that a “breakthrough is expected in the next 24 to 48 hours.” But Shah declined to set a time-frame for locating Pearl.
Sindh province Home Secretary Brigadier Mukhtar Sheikh said that police had another 13 days in which they could hold Omar in remand for interrogation. “He will speak. I am not ready to believe his claim that Pearl is dead,” the home secretary said.
Another investigator said around 14 people linked to Omar and Harkat Jihad-i-Islami have been questioned since Omar’s court appearance. Waiting in Karachi for news of her husband, Pearl’s six-months pregnant wife Mariane on Thursday issued another plea for his release, for the sake of their unborn child.
Source: The News