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Man Detained in Reporter Kidnap Case

February 8, 2002

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KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) _ Police searching for kidnapped Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl have detained the uncle of a man who allegedly e-mailed photos of Pearl in captivity, a police official said Friday.

The official also said he believes the 38-year-old Pearl is still alive.

The chief suspect, Ahmad Omar Saeed Sheikh, remained at large, but police were raiding homes searching for his relatives and friends, said Farooq Awan, a deputy superintendent of police in Karachi, where Pearl disappeared Jan. 23.

Most raids were being conducted in the eastern city of Lahore, with some occurring in Karachi, Awan said.

Police were questioning the uncle of Farhad Naseem, who was found to have photos of Pearl on his laptop computer, he said. The uncle was detained Thursday night in Karachi.

``We are working on a variety of clues. We are hopeful that the case will be solved very soon,″ said Mukhtar Ahmed Sheikh, the government official overseeing police in Sindh province. ``I believe that Pearl is alive.″

Saeed, 27, is a British-born Islamic militant who police suspect is linked to Jaish-e-Mohammed, an extremist group fighting Indian rule in Kashmir that has close ties to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida terrorist network.

Several of his relatives have been detained _ a common tactic Pakistani police use to pressure suspects into surrendering.

Officials speaking on condition of anonymity said investigators traced e-mails sent by Pearl’s kidnappers to an Internet service provider in a Karachi apartment complex. The e-mails included photos of Pearl in captivity.

Police arrested Naseem and two others Sunday night and recovered two e-mails in his laptop, police Inspector Qamer Ahmed said. Naseem claimed to receive the e-mails from Saeed, the inspector said.

The owner of the service provider, Naeem Ahmad, said Naseem erased his files and browser but neglected to clean his hard drive.

Pearl was abducted Jan. 23 en route to a meeting in Karachi with Muslim extremist contacts. He was believed to be investigating links between Pakistani militants and Richard C. Reid, a Briton arrested on a Paris-to-Miami flight in December with explosives in his shoes.

The kidnappers sent two e-mails with Pearl’s pictures on Jan. 27 and Jan. 30. After dismissing several other e-mails as hoaxes, Pakistani and U.S. investigators traced the two genuine e-mails to the Noman Grand City apartments in the middle-class Gulistan-e-Jahaur neighborhood of Karachi.

Ahmad provides Internet services to 70 clients, including Naseem, in the apartment complex. He said investigators traced the e-mails to his telephone number.

Investigators questioned each subscriber and asked them to retrieve e-mails sent during the same period the kidnappers sent theirs, Ahmad said.

``They had to check on each and every system. They asked each user to retrieve every e-mail they sent at that time,″ he said.

Naseem denied sending any e-mails on those dates, Ahmad said, but records indicated otherwise. Naseem’s laptop was seized and a check of the hard drive turned up the e-mails, Ahmad said.

The e-mails were sent in the name of an unknown group _ the National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty. They showed photos of Pearl in handcuffs and demanded that Pakistani prisoners held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, be repatriated for trial.

The kidnapping has embarrassed the government of Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, which broke with Afghanistan’s former Taliban rulers after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and backed the United States in the war against terrorism.

Last month, Musharraf banned five Islamic extremist groups, including Jaish-e-Mohammed. Pakistani authorities hope to solve the case before Musharraf visits the United States next week.

Saeed was arrested in 1994 in India in connection with the kidnapping of four British backpackers. He spent five years in an Indian prison but never was tried.

He was freed along with two other militants on Dec. 31, 1999, in exchange for passengers on an Indian Airlines flight hijacked to Kandahar, Afghanistan.

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