(PPF/IFEX) - A previously unknown group, The National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty, sent an e-mail message to newspapers claiming it had captured Daniel Pearl, a reporter from "The Wall Street Journal". Pearl disappeared on Wednesday 23 January 2002 while in Karachi to interview leaders of radical Islamic groups.
A number of news organisations, including "The Wall Street Journal", received the e-mail that accused Pearl of being a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agent posing as a journalist. The message included four photographs of Pearl - one with a gun pointed at his head.
The message said that Pearl was being kept "in very inhuman circumstances quite similar in fact to the way Pakistanis and nationals of other sovereign countries are being kept in Cuba by the American army. If the Americans keep our countrymen in better conditions, then we will better the conditions of Mr. Pearl and all other Americans that we capture."
The e-mail message demanded that Pakistanis being held at Guantanamo Bay be given access to lawyers and their families, and be returned to Pakistan to be tried in a Pakistani court. It also demanded the release of Taliban's former ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, who was deported from Pakistan to Afghanistan and turned over to United States military forces.
Steven Goldstein, vice-president of Dow Jones & Company, the parent company of "The Wall Street Journal", said the photographs appear to be legitimate. He said Pearl "has no connection whatever with the government of the United States, including the Central Intelligence Agency." Pearl has been a staff reporter at "The Wall Street Journal" for 12 years, in Atlanta, Washington and London, and has been its South Asia bureau chief since December 2000. CIA spokesman Bill Harlow also said that Pearl "does not now, nor has he ever, worked for the CIA."
However, Reuters news agency, quoting an unnamed police official, said the Karachi police had checked the e-mail and found it to be a hoax. "We're not taking it seriously."
The search for Pearl has been expanded beyond Karachi and police teams have been sent to Islamabad, Peshawar and Quetta. The police interrogated five men in connection with the kidnapping.