- The Washington Times - Monday, February 25, 2002

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld says U.S. officials have "snippets" of evidence that suggest al Qaeda terrorists were linked to the abduction and slaughter of American journalist Daniel Pearl.
"That's a matter that needs to be carefully looked at before charges and allegations are made. But I have seen snippets that suggest that that's the case," Mr. Rumsfeld said yesterday on CBS' "Face the Nation," when asked about al Qaeda involvement in the murder of Mr. Pearl.
Pakistani police meanwhile are reportedly hunting for Arabs in connection with the slaying of Mr. Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped Jan. 23 in Karachi, Pakistan.
The hunt for Arabs indicates, investigators say, that the perpetrators may be connected to Osama bin Laden's terrorist network. According to the Associated Press, the search is targeting three Arab nationals.
In addition, AP also reported that jailed Islamic extremist Sheik Ahmed Omar Saeed, who has admitted to Karachi police he orchestrated Mr. Pearl's abduction, has also told them he met personally with bin Laden in Afghanistan after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
U.S. officials repeated yesterday that the whereabouts of bin Laden remain a mystery, as does the question of whether he is dead or alive.
Responding to reports in yesterday's editions of the New York Times that bin Laden is alive, hiding near Afghanistan's border with Pakistan or possibly even moving between the two countries, Mr. Rumsfeld said on NBC's "Meet the Press," "We've not seen any hard evidence he's alive in recent weeks."
But he added on CBS, "that does not mean he's not alive."
"He may be in Afghanistan. I think that's the likeliest possibility. He could be across the border in a neighboring country," the secretary told "Meet the Press."
On "Fox News Sunday," Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, "It is possible he's no longer alive. But I think the odds are probably he is alive."
Pakistani police believe that a dozen or more people were involved in the kidnapping and murder of Mr. Pearl, and that most of them have spent time in Afghanistan as supporters of the ousted Taliban militia.
Saeed and three other key suspects were already in police custody Friday when U.S. and Pakistani officials revealed the contents of a videotape that showed Mr. Pearl, 38, being killed.
Pakistani prosecutors were to charge Saeed and the three others today with murder and kidnapping, offenses that both carry the death penalty.
The other three are accused of having sent e-mails announcing Mr. Pearl's abduction, including one showing a gun pointed at the reporter's head.
In the NBC interview, Mr. Rumsfeld was asked by Tim Russert if he suspects that disgruntled members of Pakistani intelligence might be involved in the Pearl case, since Saeed has "close ties" with the intelligence agency, ISID.
The defense secretary noted that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has shaken up ISID, changing both its leaders and its culture.
"He has let some people go. And there's no question, when you let people go, there's some disgruntled people who are capable of doing things that are not what the government of Pakistan would like," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
But he hastened to add: "In saying that, I don't want to suggest that I am validating the charge that's being made, because I simply don't have that knowledge."
Also yesterday, Newsweek reported that Saeed was secretly indicted by a federal grand jury last year in a foiled 1994 kidnapping of four Western tourists in India.
Indian authorities found the victims and jailed Saeed and his accomplices, although supporters won their release in 1999 by hijacking an Indian airliner and stabbing a passenger to death.
Although the United States and Pakistan do not have an extradition treaty, Wendy Chamberlain, U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, raised the issue of extraditing Saeed with Pakistan's foreign minister on Jan. 9, Newsweek said. Mr. Pearl was kidnapped 14 days later.
On CBS, Mr. Rumsfeld nevertheless said bringing Saeed and others to trial in the United States remains a possibility.
"The United States government may very well want to try to extradite people involved, if possible, for the killing of an American, which would seem to me as a non-lawyer to be a reasonable thing," he said on "Face the Nation."
Sen. Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Republican and vice chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, said on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" that signing an extradition agreement with Pakistan "should be a priority," along with finding everyone involved in the killing of Mr. Pearl.
If Pakistani officials "will bring the killers to justice there and let justice be had, that would be closure on our part," he said. "But if they're not going to do the job that we think they can do … that is another thing."
Mr. Rumsfeld said the Pentagon is continuing to investigate the possibility that one of the people killed by missiles fired by a Predator drone in a Feb. 4 attack in southeastern Afghanistan was bin Laden.
Defense officials have said they believed the targets were al Qaeda members, but some newspaper reports have said they were local Afghan villagers collecting scrap metal.
"I've watched the video from the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle, and the suggestion that those people were scrap collectors is ludicrous," he said on "Meet the Press," also citing the surveillance team who followed the party over a long period.
"They were clearly having meetings, conducting business and moving from place to place and trying to conceal themselves," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
Like bin Laden, one of those killed by the missile attack at Zawar Kili was more than 6 feet tall. Pieces of human tissue were collected at the site and are being examined for comparison with DNA from bin Laden's family.
"We'll know what we'll know when those examinations are completed, and they have not yet been completed," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
Mr. Shelby yesterday agreed with claims made Saturday on CNN by Sen. Bob Graham, chairman of the Senate intelligence panel, that there are "100 or more al Qaeda operatives inside the United States."
The Alabama Republican said yesterday there are "probably at least" that many.
"Senator Graham is right in this regard. A lot of these so-called cells or people, they are scattered all over the United States," he said.
He added: "I do believe we have disrupted in a big way the communications by the leadership of al Qaeda. But that doesn't mean that these people are not trained, are not dedicated to acting on their own at a certain level. And I think they will hit us from time to time."

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide