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Pakistan/U.S.: Videotape Shows Pearl Was 'Brutally Slaughtered'

Prague, 22 February 2002 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. and Pakistani officials say American journalist Daniel Pearl is dead.

Pearl, who was 38 years old and a reporter for "The Wall Street Journal," was abducted a month ago in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, apparently by Pakistani militants. His abductors demanded, among other things, the release of Pakistani nationals held at a U.S. naval base in Cuba.

News of Pearl's murder came via a videotape delivered to Pakistani officials on 20 February. The tape is now being analyzed by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Pakistani and U.S. officials say the tape offers clear proof of Pearl's murder. Pakistani officials are quoted as saying the tape shows Pearl being "brutally slaughtered," indicating that his throat had been cut.

It's not clear when the murder took place. "The Washington Post" quotes an unnamed Pakistani source as saying the video has no date, no audio, and shows no faces other than Pearl's. Karachi police say no body has been recovered so far.

News of the murder provoked quick reaction from U.S. and Pakistani leaders.

U.S. President George W. Bush, on a visit to China, called Pearl's death a "terrorist" act. He said such "criminal, barbaric" behavior only deepens U.S. resolve to act against terrorism.

"Those who would engage in criminal, barbaric acts need to know that these crimes only hurt their cause and only deepen the resolve of the United States of America to rid the world of these agents of terror."

The U.S. State Department expressed outrage at Pearl's death. Spokesman Richard Boucher said yesterday that "both the United States and Pakistan are committed to identifying all the perpetrators of this crime and bringing them to justice."

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf today ordered security forces to apprehend "each and every one" of what he called a "gang of terrorists."

Pearl disappeared on 23 January in Karachi after being lured to a restaurant by the prospect of meeting an Islamic radical. Pearl was working on a story involving Richard Reid, the man accused of attempting to blow up a passenger jet in December using explosives hidden in his shoes. Pearl was reportedly investigating alleged links between Reid and the Al-Qaeda terrorist network.

Four days after the kidnapping, a previously unknown group calling itself the National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty sent an e-mail with photographs showing Pearl with a gun held to his head.

The group accused Pearl of being an American spy and demanded the release of Pakistani nationals incarcerated at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for their suspected role in the Afghan conflict.

In a second e-mail, the kidnappers threatened to kill Pearl within 24 hours if their demands were not met.

Pearl's abduction sparked an intense manhunt by both U.S. and Pakistani officials that eventually led, in early February, to the arrest of a British-born militant named Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh.

Saeed has confessed to the kidnapping, but his testimony was contradictory and his role in the abduction remains unclear. He told a Karachi court on 14 February that he believed Pearl was already dead, but that claim was dismissed at the time by Pakistani authorities.

U.S. officials are reportedly considering asking Pakistan to extradite Saeed to the U.S. for trial.

The managing editor of "The Wall Street Journal," Paul Steiger, while announcing news of Pearl's murder yesterday, said the employees of the newspaper are grief-stricken: "We are heartbroken at his death. Danny was an outstanding colleague, a great reporter and a dear friend of many at "The [Wall Street] Journal."

Steiger praised Pearl, who joined the paper in 1990 and was its South Asian bureau chief, as an objective reporter who strove to see both sides of a story.

"His murder is an act of barbarism that makes a mockery of everything that Danny's kidnappers claimed to believe in. They claim to be Pakistani nationalists, but their actions must surely bring shame to all true Pakistani patriots."

Pearl leaves behind a wife, Mariane, who is expecting the couple's first child in May. Gary Foster, a Pearl family spokesman, spoke to reporters yesterday.

"Danny's senseless murder lies beyond our comprehension. Danny was a beloved son, a brother, an uncle, a husband, and a father to a child who will never know him; a musician, a writer, a storyteller, and a bridge-builder. Danny was a walking sunshine of truth, humor, friendship, and compassion. We grieve with the many who have known him in his life, and we weep for a world that must reckon with his death."

U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl, dead at the age of 38.

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    Mark Baker

    Mark Baker is a freelance journalist and travel writer based in Prague. He has written guidebooks and articles for Lonely Planet, Frommer’s, and Fodor’s, and his articles have also appeared in National Geographic Traveler and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications.