- The Washington Times - Monday, February 4, 2002

KARACHI, Pakistan The discovery in Karachi of the body of a light-skinned man in his late 30s set off fevered American television accounts yesterday that the corpse was that of Daniel Pearl, the missing Wall Street Journal reporter, but police said it was that of an Iranian.
"We continue to believe that Danny is alive," said Steve Goldstein, a vice president of Dow Jones & Co., publishers of the newspaper.
With leads on Islamic extremist groups running dry, Pakistani investigators said yesterday they were expanding their search for the kidnappers of Mr. Pearl into Karachi's murky criminal underworld.
A number of criminal gangs some with close ties to political and religious groups flourish in this city of 12 million people. India claims one major gang is led by Dawood Ibrahim, suspected of bombings in several Indian cities. Pakistan denies Mr. Ibrahim is in Karachi.
Jamil Yusuf, chief of the Citizen-Police Liaison Committee, was skeptical about a criminal link. The committee was formed in the last decade to help police combat crimes, especially kidnappings.
Mr. Yusuf also said authorities have been stymied because Mr. Pearl's abduction does not fit the pattern of most kidnappings, in which gangs routinely contact the victim's family by telephone, with the calls being easily traceable.
Pakistani and U.S. news organizations have received at least six e-mails purportedly from the kidnappers. However, police consider only two of them genuine. The two included photographs of the reporter.
The investigation has been complicated because of e-mail hoaxes. Late yesterday, police searched an eastern Karachi neighborhood from which e-mails believed bona fide may have been sent.
Mr. Pearl, 38, the newspaper's South Asia correspondent, was working on a story about Islamic fundamentalists and was trying to arrange an interview with Sheik Mubarak Ali Shah Gilani, the leader of a small militant group. Mr. Pearl disappeared Jan. 23 in Karachi after leaving for an appointment at a downtown restaurant.
"So far no breakthrough has been made, but some progress has been made in investigations," Pakistani Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider said yesterday.
However, other investigators, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said police still had no firm idea about who was holding Mr. Pearl or where. Pakistani authorities hope for a breakthrough in the case before President Pervez Musharraf visits the United States next week.
"The various agencies of the United States government are actively trying to be helpful," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Sunday on ABC's "This Week." "The Pakistani government is being very cooperative and is doing what they can do."
Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's national security adviser, also expressed satisfaction with Pakistan's efforts to solve the case.
"We certainly hope that the kidnappers understand that they're doing, whatever cause they are promoting, no good here, and that Daniel Pearl needs to be released and released right away," she said on "Fox News Sunday."
Pakistani police, however, have been unable to find two primary suspects, Mohammed Hashim and Bashir Ahmad Shabbir. Mr. Hashim, also known as Arif, is believed to be a Harkat ul-Mujahideen activist, and Mr. Shabbir was a follower of Sheik Gilani, police said.
Sheik Gilani was arrested last week, but investigators say it is not clear whether he played any role in the abduction.
In the capital, Islamabad, a top-level government task force met yesterday to review the investigation. A source who took part in the meeting said the participants discussed the possibility of a criminal-gang link to the kidnapping. Mukhtar Ahmad Sheik, in charge of security here in Sindh province, confirmed that the investigation was not limited to religious extremists.
"We are keeping all options open in our investigations," he said. "The list of suspects ranges from religious extremists to gangs of criminals."
Police said yesterday that a teen-age boy in the border city of Lahore admitted he sent two of the bogus e-mails. Authorities gave no further details except that the youth, about 15 years old, was released without charge into the custody of his parents.
Investigators said U.S. authorities, including the FBI, were trying to trace the two e-mails believed genuine.
Late yesterday, police surrounded an apartment complex in Karachi's eastern Gulistan-e-Jauhar neighborhood, from which they suspected the two messages may have been sent. The operation was still under way early today, and police said it would take hours to complete.
An e-mail sent to news organizations Friday claimed that Mr. Pearl had been killed and his body dumped in a Karachi cemetery. Police searched cemeteries Saturday, but found no trace of Mr. Pearl.
Police said they also believed a ransom demand, telephoned to U.S. diplomats Friday, was a hoax. The caller demanded $2 million and the release of a former Taliban diplomat.

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