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Pearl Killed by Yemenis, Police Say

August 18, 2002 GMT

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KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) _ Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl was slain by an Arab after he tried to escape from kidnappers who seized him eight days earlier, police said Sunday.

Two investigators, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the information was gleaned from three men who led police in May to a body that was identified by DNA tests as Pearl.

The three _ Naeem Bukhari, Fazal Karim and Zubair Chishti _ have not been charged in the Pearl case and Pakistani authorities have not even acknowledged publicly that they are in custody.


Pearl, 38, was kidnapped Jan. 23 in Karachi while researching links between Pakistani Islamic extremists and Richard C. Reid, who was arrested in December on a flight from Paris to Miami with explosives in his shoe.

The three men were arrested as the trial of four other alleged kidnappers was under way. The four were later convicted and one of them, British-born Islamic militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, was sentenced to death by hanging. The others received life sentences.

All four have appealed. The emergence of new evidence could complicate the government’s case against them, even though the prosection had always maintained that others involved in the kidnap-slaying remained at large.

According to the two police officers, the abduction began on the night of Jan. 23 when Saeed telephoned his accomplices and ordered them to pick up Pearl in front of the Village Restaurant.

Pearl was put in one car, which was followed by a second containing three other kidnappers. The two vehicles followed Bukhari, who led the convoy on a motorcycle to the shack where Pearl was to be held.

Police said that on the sixth day, Pearl tried to escape as he was being led to the toilet. However, he was seized by Karim and Chishti, who beat him and shot him in the leg.

The struggle made so much noise that students at a nearby Islamic school ran out onto the roof to see what was happening, police said.

A day after the escape attempt, police said, Bukhari told his fellow kidnappers that they had to kill Pearl, although the officers said it was unclear who gave the order for his murder.

The kidnappers waited a day while they deliberated issuing a ransom demand, the officers said. On the ninth day of the kidnapping, three Arabs, whom the suspects believed to have been Yemenis, were brought to the hideout, the police said. The two officers said the Arabs were said to have been associates of Ramzi Yousef _ the imprisoned mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Police said the kidnappers began asking Pearl a series of questions about his religion and his background as one of the Arabs filmed it with a video camera.

Suddenly, Karim seized Pearl’s hands and one of the Arabs slit his throat, the officers said. The actual murder was supposed to have been recorded but ``the cameraman lost his nerve,″ one of the policemen said. The videotape was later sent to the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, confirming Pearl was dead.

The effect of the new allegations on the case against Saeed and the three others is unclear. The government had said it was looking for seven others in the kidnap-slaying. Although the new account does not exonerate Saeed, some details are different from those presented by the prosecution at the initial trial.

Pakistani lawyers not involved in the case said the appeals court, which agreed to consider the case this week, could order a new trial if the policemen’s account is corroborated.

At the time Pearl’s body was discovered, state-run Pakistan Television said police were led to the grave by three members of the outlawed Lashkar-e-Janghvi, a radical Islamic group with links to al-Qaida.

Pearl’s body was found in a shallow grave on property owned by the Al-Rashid Trust, whose assets were frozen by the United States last year after accusations it was a conduit for money to al-Qaida.

The grave was about 500 yards from a large Islamic religious school, called Jamia Rashidia, which is believed to have links to Jaish-e-Mohammed and other al-Qaida-affiliated militant groups.

Pearl’s body was flown back to the United States and was buried Aug. 11 in the Los Angeles area.