Pakistani security services have arrested a fugitive suspect in the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl during their ongoing raids against Islamic extremists, police said yesterday.
Hashim Qadeer, arrested in the eastern city of Gujranwala on Wednesday, is said to have introduced the US journalist to British-born Sheikh Omar, who faces the death penalty for Pearl's 2002 murder.
"Hashim was arrested by chance as police were looking for militants under a crackdown against extremist elements launched by the government," said a local police official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The suspect was caught at a bus terminal while boarding a bus for Rawalpindi, a city near the capital Islamabad, the official said. Pearl, the financial daily's Mumbai-based South Asia correspondent, disappeared in Karachi on January 23, 2002, while working on a story on Pakistani militant groups.
Pearl was abducted and a graphic video depicting his gruesome decapitation was later delivered to the US consulate in the southern port city of Karachi.
Pakistan's southern Sindh Province offered a 1 million rupee (US$16,700) reward for Qadeer. Pakistani television said there was also a US reward, but US officials in Islamabad did not immediately confirm this.
A senior Karachi police investigator said Qadeer belonged to the militant Harkatul Mujahideen group and was the man who introduced Pearl to Sheikh Omar.
"The meeting took place in a hotel in Rawalpindi," the investigator said.
Police sources said Qadeer disappeared soon after Pearl's kidnapping.
"During a raid at his home in 2002, police were told that Qadeer had been killed in the US bombing in Afghanistan while fighting alongside the Taliban forces," a police source said.
However, when police arrested some other suspects in Pearl's case, they came to know that Qadeer was alive and hiding in Pakistan.
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