Militants Linked to Pearl Killing Still at Large, Report Says

Militants Linked to Pearl Killing Still at Large, Report Says
# 21 January 2011 00:56 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. Nine years after an American reporter Daniel Pearl was captured and killed by operatives of Al Qaeda in Pakistan, more than a dozen of the militants involved in his murder remain at large, a testament to the lack of will by Pakistani authorities to prosecute the cases, according to a report released Thursday, APA reports quoting The NewYork Times.
Some of the 14 men who are known to have played a role in the death of Mr. Pearl, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, proceeded to commit other terror attacks in Pakistan, including the attack on an American hotel in Karachi in which 11 French engineers and the attempted assassination of the former president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the report says.
A senior Pakistani law enforcement official who was closely involved in the Pearl case and worked with American investigators confirmed in an interview Thursday that the 14 men had not been prosecuted.
The Pakistani official, who declined to be named because he said he received death threats from the militants, said there was “sufficient evidence to link them to Pearl’s case.”
“This is a one million dollar question as to where there people are and why they weren’t arrested or tried in this case,” the law enforcement official said. All of the 14 men had committed “major acts of terrorism” in the next four or five years, the official said.
The murder of Mr. Pearl has been extensively documented and discussed as an emblem of the post 9/11 era. A Hollywood movie, A Mighty Heart with Angelina Jolie, popularized the case.
But unanswered questions persisted, gaps that the new report based on investigative work by students and faculty at the journalism program of Georgetown University and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists attempts to fill.
Mr. Pearl was kidnapped in Karachi on Jan. 23, 2002 as he was pursuing a story about Islamic extremism and was beheaded in early February.
A British Pakistani, Omar Sheikh, and three others were convicted and sentenced to death by a Pakistani court in July 2002. These four men remain in jail in Pakistan.
They were involved in the plot to abduct Mr. Pearl, but were not responsible for his actual murder in a compound deep in the slums of Karachi, the report says.
In 2007, the Qaeda operative Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who is awaiting trial for the 9/11 attacks, confessed to carrying out Mr. Pearl’s murder, according to a transcript of a hearing released by United States officials. Mr. Mohammed has not been indicted for the Pearl murder, the report says.
A comparison of the photograph of the veins in the hand that beheaded Mr. Pearl shown in a video of his death and a study of the veins in Mr. Mohammed’s hand taken at Guantanomo Bay showed that Mr.Mohammed had indeed killed Mr. Pearl, the report says.
The murder of Mr. Pearl melded together operatives of Al Qaeda with technically proficient Pakistani militant groups, a combination that turned out to be the beginnings of a lethal alliance that grew stronger and has tormented Pakistan ever since, the findings show.
“The murder was the first known operation in which Pakistani militants collaborated with Al Qaeda,” the report says.
One of the militant groups involved in Mr. Pearl’s murder, Lashkar-e-Janghvi became a key player in the Punjabi Taliban, a loose confederation of militant groups now holed up with Al Qaeda in the Pakistani tribal area of North Waziristan. Those groups are now major targets of American drone attacks.
Lashkar-e-Janghvi masterminded the commando-style assault on the Pakistan army headquarters in October 2009 that deeply embarrassed the Pakistani military. The attack was run by a wing of Lashkar-e-Janghvi named after Amjad Farooqi who was identified by Pakistani authorities as one of Mr. Pearl’s kidnappers. Mr. Farooqi was killed in a shootout in southern Pakistan in 2004.
Among the 14 men who remain free , the report names Abdul Hayee.
In 2003, Mr. Hayee was arrested for killing six Shia, the minority Islam sect in Pakistan. He was acquitted and lives in the province of Punjab, according to a Pakistani police official interviewed for the report.
Another militant, Mohammad Sohail, who worked with Mr. Farooqi on the Pearl abduction, was sentenced to death in 2003 for his role in the 2002 bombing of the Sheraton Hotel in Karachi that killed 11 French engineers, the report says. He was acquitted on appeal in 2009, and is now free, according to the report.
Another militant, Malik Tassadaq Hussain, who the report says took photos of Mr. Pearl that were distributed in an email during his captivity, was arrested in 2004 but never charged. He was later charged for an attack on a police van and acquitted in 2007, the report says.
A Pakistani lawyer, Ahmer Bilal Soofi, who has studied Pakistan’s anti-terrorism laws, said the laws were deeply flawed, and many cases were thrown out of court for lack of evidence. Police officers were rarely given enough time or resources to carry out proper investigations, especially in high profile cases, he said.
“An investigating officer just throws whatever evidence he has in court,” Mr. Soofi said. “His superior lauds him and says we’ve taken the case to court. But in the process they have compromised the case.”