Safiullah Gul: Pearl is still alive, says prime suspect

Police arrested Ahmad Omar Saeed Sheikh, the chief suspect in the kidnapping of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl from the eastern city of Lahore in the Punjab province of Pakistan on Tuesday and has told investigators that the journalist is still alive and is in the southern port city of Karachi.

Investigators said the key break in Saeed's arrest came Monday night with the arrest of a suspect in Islamabad, who gave key information which later led to the arrest of the chief suspect. The arrest of Ahmad Omar Saeed Sheikh is being considered as the biggest breakthrough in the three weeks of investigation in the kidnap of the US reporter. The kidnapper was boarded on a special aircraft that flew him to the capital city of Islamabad and then he was taken to Karachi via PIA flight PK-309 late Tuesday, Interior Ministry sources said, adding that he was taken out of the airport under tight security, but refused to give further details as Pearl's whereabouts remained unknown. Omar became the focus of a massive police manhunt backed by US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents after he was identified by three other suspects as being the source of e-mailed photographs of Pearl in captivity.

The photographs showing Pearl with a gun at his head were sent to various media outlets almost two weeks ago. The e-mails included a threat that Pearl would be executed on February 1 unless the United States released a Taliban ambassador of Afghanistan and Pakistanis held prisoner at a US naval base in Cuba. Washington rejected the demands.

Omar is believed to be a senior figure in the banned Jaish-i-Muhammad militant group.

Omar's arrest, the Interior officials said, is a significant achievement in the case, but authorities still have to wait to learn about Pearl's fate. A team of police officers from Karachi had been in Lahore searching for Ahmad Omar for the last few days and several more arrests were reported in Karachi, Rawalpindi and other major cities on Tuesday. The three suspects accused of sending the e-mails announcing Pearl's abduction were charged with kidnapping Tuesday and were remanded into police custody for further questioning. The suspects were brought to court in an armoured personnel carrier (APC) surrounded by 20 machine-gun toting policemen wearing helmets and bullet-proof vests. The suspects were chained together at the waist, their heads and faces covered by shawls and bath towels. They were led into a second-story Anti-Terrorism Court of judge Shabbir Ahmed, but presiding judge decided to hear their case in his chambers. Law enforcement agencies have denied permission to the defence counsel Khawaja Naveed, advocate, to meet with three accused - Fahad, Sulaiman and Adil. During the hearing when judge Shabbir Ahmed asked from one of the accused about the treatment of police officials with him, he replied that they were not harassing them. However, appearance of the three accused were not looking good as it seems that police have severely tortured them. Later the remanded the three accused for 14 days for further investigation.

Safiullah Gul for PRAVDA.Ru

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