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WSJ Suspect Moved After Threat

February 28, 2002

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) _ Police moved the suspected mastermind in the kidnap-slaying of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl to a new jail after an anonymous caller threatened to blow up a police lockup if he is sent to the United States for trial, authorities said Thursday.

The hunt for another suspect still at large intensified Thursday, with police in eastern Punjab province arresting two associates of Amjad Hussain Faruqi, the man police believe actually abducted and held Pearl.

The two associates _ Mohammed Akram and Mohammed Fida _ are brothers and believed to be friends of Faruqi, police official Bilal Siddique told The Associated Press from the Punjab city of Kamalia.

Police are hoping for a breakthrough soon that would lead to Faruqi’s arrest, the police official said. He gave no details.

In the southern port city of Karachi, meanwhile, gunmen ambushed a police bus in a bid to free prisoners from three banned Muslim groups. A policeman and a prisoner were killed and eight people wounded, but none of the prisoners escaped. The gunmen fled.

The prisoners were from Jaish-e-Mohammed, or Army of Mohammed, and two other Islamic militant groups. Some suspected Jaish-e-Mohammed members have been linked by police to Pearl’s abduction and murder.

Pearl, South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal, was abducted by Islamic militants in Karachi on Jan. 23.

Pearl’s murder was revealed in a graphic video received last week by U.S. diplomats in Karachi. The tape showed the 38-year-old journalist being forced to say he was Jewish, followed by images of Pearl’s dead body being decapitated.

The alleged mastermind, British-born Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, was already in custody when the tape was received. He confessed in a court hearing to involvement in the kidnapping. Later, he withdrew the confession, which was not made under oath.

The United States has not yet indicted Saeed in the Pearl case. U.S. authorities are seeking his extradition under a 1994 warrant for the kidnapping of another American.

Pakistan’s courts have ordered Saeed held at least through March 12 while investigators work.

Saeed ``is under investigation at the moment,″ Foreign Ministry spokesman Aziz Ahmed Khan told an Islamabad news conference Thursday. ``Let that investigation be completed.″

A senior Pakistani diplomat told AP on Wednesday that the government has ``no objections″ to handing Saeed over to U.S. authorities once proceedings against him here are complete.

President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, however, risks a militant backlash if he accedes to the U.S. request for Saeed.

On Tuesday, a caller threatened to blow up Karachi’s crime investigation department _ the building where Saeed and two other suspects were being held _ if any of the men are sent to the United States.

Security around the building was stepped up Wednesday, with police rolling out an armored personnel carrier and deployed 50 policemen in bulletproof vests.

Police later transferred Saeed and two other suspects to a different center, in a Karachi neighborhood where police officials live, Inspector Qamar Ahmed, one of the interrogators, said.

The United States and Pakistan have no extradition treaty, but Pakistan has turned suspects over to the United States in the past.

A U.S. federal grand jury secretly indicted Saeed in the 1994 kidnapping of four Westerners in India, including one American. Saeed spent five years in an Indian jail for that crime, but was freed in a hostage-prisoner swap after Muslim militants hijacked an Indian airplane.

Pearl’s wife, Mariane, who is seven months pregnant with the couple’s son, left Pakistan for home on Wednesday, a U.S. official said Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity. The French-born widow flew first to Paris, the U.S. official said.

Before leaving, Mariane Pearl talked privately with the Pakistani president in Islamabad on Wednesday.

State television said Musharraf told the widow of his ``heartfelt grief″ and called her husband’s killing a ``most barbaric″ act of terrorism.

Television quoted Mariane Pearl as telling Musharraf that she felt his government had done everything it could to prevent the killing.

In other developments:

_ In Washington, the State Department announced a $5 million reward Wednesday for information leading to the arrest or conviction of those responsible for Pearl’s kidnapping and murder.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the reward would be advertised in Pakistan soon.

_ Stanford University, where Pearl received his bachelor’s degree in journalism, said it had set up a fund in his honor to benefit student journalists. The move was sparked by an anonymous alumnus donation of $50,000, Stanford spokeswoman Becky Smith said.

Update hourly