By: Richard Pyle, Associated Press Writer
(AP) Updated at 12:48 p.m. EST
A month after he was taken hostage in Pakistan, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl has been confirmed dead — murdered by his Islamic extremist captors, Pakistani authorities say, the crime captured on videotape. The State Department confirmed Pearl’s death, saying the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan received evidence of the murder on Thursday.
Sources close to the investigation who had seen the tape said it showed Pearl dead, his throat cut. The announcements crushed the hopes of Pearl’s colleagues and his pregnant wife, who had pleaded for the reporter’s safe return ever since he was abducted in the Pakistani port city of Karachi on Jan. 23.
The Journal said its staff was “heartbroken,” and Pearl’s parents and two sisters said they were “shocked and saddened” by the news.
“Up until a few hours ago, we were confident that Danny would return safely, for we believe that no human being could be capable of harming such a gentle soul,” they said in a statement from their home in the Encino section of Los Angeles.
Pearl’s wife, Mariane, was told of his death in Karachi, where she had been staying while awaiting word on her husband’s fate, said Steve Goldstein, a vice president of Dow Jones & Co., the owner of the Journal. In the weeks since her husband’s capture, Mariane Pearl, a free-lance journalist, had pleaded for his freedom and offered herself in his place. She is now seven months pregnant with the couple’s first child.
In Beijing, a grim-faced President Bush said “all Americans are sad and angry to learn of the murder. May God bless Daniel Pearl.”
Pearl was abducted after arranging to interview the leader of a radical Muslim faction with purported ties to the al-Qaida terrorist network and terror suspect Richard C. Reid, who was arrested on a Paris-Miami flight he allegedly boarded with explosives in his shoes. Pakistani officials said there were indications that Pearl had been lured into a trap by false information. Pakistani police have seized several suspects, including an extremist who said in court that he engineered Pearl’s abduction.
The videotape confirming Pearl’s death “contained scenes showing Mr. Pearl in captivity and scenes of his murder by the kidnappers,” the interior minister of the Sindh province, which includes Karachi, said Thursday. “The tape appears to be correct,” said the minister, Mukhtar Ahmad Sheikh.
A Pakistani investigator told The Associated Press that kidnappers killed Pearl by cutting his throat, and then decapitated him. Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said the kidnappers made two videotapes, one longer than the next, that contained graphic images of Pearl’s death and the moments afterward. Another source close to the investigation said a tape showed Pearl before he was killed saying into the videocamera, “I am a Jew, my mother is a Jew.”
No details were immediately available on exactly where or when the reporter was killed. Karachi police said no body had been recovered so far. In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher provided no details on the evidence received by the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan. Two U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a videotape purportedly showed Pearl either dead or being killed, and the FBI was evaluating the tape’s authenticity.
Reaction to the announcement was swift. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf offered condolences and ordered security forces to apprehend “each and every one of the gang of terrorists” involved in Pearl’s killing.
Bush decried Pearl’s slaying and said such crimes “only deepen the resolve of the United States” to fight terrorism. Speaking Friday, on the last day of his six-day Asia tour, he expressed special sympathy for Pearl’s wife and the unborn baby who “will now know his father only through the memory of others.”
The Journal statement said Pearl’s “murder is an act of barbarism that makes a mockery of everything Danny’s kidnappers claimed to believe in.” The statement, signed by Publisher Peter Kann and Managing Editor Paul Steiger, called Pearl “an outstanding colleague, a great reporter, and a dear friend of many at the Journal.”
Four days after Pearl disappeared, an e-mail sent to Pakistani and international media showed photos of him in captivity and demanded that the United States repatriate Pakistanis captured in Afghanistan and detained at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A second e-mail sent Jan. 30 said Pearl would be killed in 24 hours. That was the last known message from his captors.
On Feb. 12, Islamic militant Ahmad Omar Saeed Sheikh was arrested in the case. He said during a court hearing that he had engineered Pearl’s abduction to protest Pakistan’s alliance with the United States’ post-Sept. 11 war on terrorism. “Our country shouldn’t be catering to America’s needs,” the militant said. According to Pakistani authorities, Saeed, a British-born key figure in an airplane hijacking and hostage incident in 1999, claimed the reporter had been killed in an escape attempt around Jan. 31.
In Karachi, police officials said the investigation was now focusing on Amjad Faruqi, identified by Saeed as the man who actually carried out the kidnapping. Police raided his home last week but found no sign of him. Police are also looking for a man identified as Hashim Qadeer, whom Pearl knew as Arif. His family claims he was killed in Afghanistan.
Pearl reported from the United States, Europe, and Asia in a 12-year career with the financial daily. Based in Bombay, India, for the past year as the Journal‘s bureau chief for South Asia, Pearl was on assignment in Pakistan as part of its coverage of the war on terrorism. The Princeton, N.J., native had worked in western Massachusetts before joining the Journal in Atlanta in 1990. He later reported from Washington, London and Paris — where he wrote about the Middle East — before moving to Asia.
Terry Anderson, the former Associated Press reporter who was held hostage for nearly seven years in Lebanon, said Pearl was “a wonderful reporter and a very decent man.
“I’m sure the foreign correspondents who go and cover areas of violence are going to take this to heart and try to be even more careful,” Anderson said. “In order to the job they do, they still take risks, because they believe it’s important that it’s worthwhile, as Danny did, to find and tell the truth.”
In Brussels Friday, journalists stood for a moment of silence to honor Daniel Pearl, and France’s president conveyed his sorrow to Pearl’s wife. Some 150 journalists at the daily press briefing of the European Union’s executive commission stood in silence to commemorate Pearl.
The European Union on Friday condemned the killing as a “barbaric murder.”
“I am shocked and deeply saddened,” Javier Solana, the EU’s foreign and security policy chief, said in a statement. “Those who have perpetrated this barbaric murder have further damaged the cause they claim to promote.”
In Pakistan, where Pearl was abducted and slain, journalists and politicians demanded the government hunt down his killers and expressed concern that Islamic militant groups would conduct further violence.
The International Federation of Journalists, a global journalists’ group, called the killing “horrifying and cruel.”
“Daniel Pearl was not representing his government or any political movement. He was a hard-working reporter, pure and simple, who was engaged in normal professional duties,” IFJ President Christopher Warren said.
The Paris-based media advocacy group, Reporters Without Borders, said, “The madness that uses a journalist as scapegoat for his government’s policy is the most serious threat in the world to the right to inform.”
French President Jacques Chirac expressed his “great sadness” in a letter to Pearl’s wife, Mariane, a French citizen, who is seven months pregnant with their first child. “I was horrified by this assassination, which is the result of the most savage and cruel terrorism,” he wrote.
The German government said it was “deeply dismayed” at the killing.
In India, where Pearl was based, External Affairs spokeswoman Nirupama Rao said the slaying draws “attention to the criminal forces of terror that continue to operate in Pakistani territory,” and she called on Pakistan — India’s longtime rival — to “root out such terrorist groups.”
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf ordered his security forces to hunt down everyone involved in Pearl’s abduction. The Foreign Ministry said Pakistanis are “deeply saddened by the brutal murder.”
“We strongly condemn it … We demand the government to arrest the culprits and give them exemplary punishment,” I.H. Rashid, head of the Pakistani journalists’ union, said.
“Pearl’s kidnapping and murder could be a sign of the worse to come,” said Farhatullah Babar, a spokesman for the former ruling Pakistan Peoples’ Party. Militants in Afghanistan and perhaps, even Kashmir, are now returning to Pakistan and could be “regrouping and reorganizing their activities,” he said.
Pakistan’s military-led government, a key ally of the United States in the war on terrorism, has banned several extremist Islamic groups to defuse tensions with India and pacify international concerns about the menace of terrorism.