Pakistani police believe Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network may be responsible for the killing of
Wall Street Journal
reporter Daniel Pearl.
Four Pakistani suspects currently being sought in the case had strong links to the ousted Taliban regime in neighbouring Afghanistan and possibly the al Qaida network as well, investigators said.
An investigator, who spoke on condition of anonymity, his suspicion that there might be an al-Qaeda link to Pearl's kidnappers was strengthened after he learned that three suspects currently in custody have been to Afghanistan and were close to the Taliban.
Investigators are also searching for three Arab nationals believed to have played a role in the killing.
Mr Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the British-born Islamic militant who police believe masterminded Pearl's abduction, at one point told his interrogators that he met personally with bin Laden in Afghanistan after the September 11th terrorist attacks in the United States.
Mr Saeed also told investigators that his group wanted to teach the United States a lesson and that Pearl's murder was just a first step.
Mr Saeed had already surrendered and confessed by the time Pearl's murder was revealed on Friday through a gruesome videotape that investigators say showed images of the journalist being forced to admit he was Jewish and then getting his neck cut while he was either unconscious or already dead.
Details from the tape emerged today that conflicted with earlier versions that said it showed the 38-year-old reporter's throat being slit while he was still alive.
A source close to the investigation who said he viewed the three-minute video said that it consisted of three segments. Speaking on condition of anonymity, he gave this account:
In the first segment, Pearl is forced to say that he is Jewish and that both his mother and his father are also Jewish. He is also forced to give a statement denouncing America's actions against Muslims.
In the second segment, the journalist is shown lying on the ground, apparently unconscious or already dead, with his throat slit.
The third segment shows Pearl decapitated.
Throughout the video, images of Afghanistan, including prisoners and bombed out buildings, are shown on a split screen alongside the images of Pearl. No-one's face is shown on the video except for Pearl's. In the footage showing him conscious, Pearl was calm, the source said.
The source said it's not possible to know when, where or how the journalist was killed from the tape alone. That information is still not known. Pearl's body has not been found and one investigator said yesterday that it will be difficult to find unless the remaining suspects are apprehended.
Before his abduction, Pearl had been investigating a story on alleged links between Pakistani militants and Richard Reid, who was arrested in December for allegedly trying to ignite explosives in his sneakers during a Paris-Miami flight.
It is not known why the militants targeted Pearl, but there are several theories: revenge for the US rout of the Taliban in Afghanistan; an attempt to destabilise the Musharraf government for its support for the war on terror; or because Pearl may have been getting close to sensitive information about militant groups or intelligence service activities.