- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 30, 2002

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan An American journalist who went missing in Pakistan last week was negotiating to meet with Taliban and al Qaeda fugitives hiding in Karachi, Pakistani police officials said yesterday.

Hundreds of Taliban and al Qaeda fugitives had fled to Karachi and other Pakistani cities after the collapse of the Taliban regime in neighboring Afghanistan on Nov. 13 and are now either hiding in Afghan refugee camps or with their Pakistani sympathizers.

Daniel Pearl, 38, the Bombay bureau chief of the Wall Street Journal, disappeared last Wednesday in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi, telling his wife he was going to interview the leader of a religious group. But later his colleagues said Mr. Pearl was working on a story about suspected shoe-bomber Richard Reid, who is being tried in the United States for attempting to blow up an airliner last month.

Pakistani investigators say that before disappearing, Mr. Pearl visited a man who claimed to have known some al Qaeda suspects. Police raided the residence of Mr. Pearl's primary contact for the story but could not find him, a senior police official said.

Police said the man claimed to have known some al Qaeda suspects who had purportedly trained with Mr. Reid in Afghanistan "in urban guerrilla warfare and terrorism techniques."

"The linkman had promised to arrange an interview with these suspects if Pearl paid him well," a police official said. Mr. Pearl's colleagues denied he was paying his contacts to get information.

Meanwhile, the FBI and Pakistani police have expanded the search for Mr. Pearl by sending teams to the areas bordering Afghanistan, sources in the Interior Ministry said.

A special FBI team arrived in Pakistan on Monday to join the search for Mr. Pearl. Although the FBI already has a field office in Islamabad, it sent a special team from the United States because field agents were already busy pursuing al Qaeda and Taliban suspects in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Also on Monday, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell spoke with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf by telephone and urged him to use his influence to help recover the missing journalist.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on Monday that the United States was working closely with Pakistani authorities to seek Mr. Pearl's release. He said Washington appreciated "the strong cooperation" U.S. investigators were receiving from the Pakistani authorities.

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