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Thursday, 11 July, 2002, 08:59 GMT 09:59 UK
Journalist in pursuit of a story
Policeman in cyber cafe
Police have had very few leads in the case
By the BBC's Rahimullah Yusufzai in Peshawar

It was shortly before his abduction that the 38-year-old Daniel Pearl, accompanied by his French wife Mariane, visited me in Peshawar.

Like every journalist, he was planning a trip to Afghanistan - but, before that, he wanted to meet Taleban or al-Qaeda members who may have escaped to Pakistan following the collapse of the Taleban regime.

Daniel Pearl
Daniel Pearl: Hoped to travel to Afghanistan
I told the couple that Taleban and al-Qaeda officials hiding in Pakistan were very unlikely to meet journalists, especially those from the West, because they risked arrest by the Pakistani police and the US military.

Curious and determined, Daniel Pearl was also working on a story on militant Islamic groups.

It now appears that he was kidnapped while researching this story in Karachi - a city of 12 million people, prone to lawlessness and political instability.

Kidnappers' demands

Police suspected the Harkatul Mujahideen, a militant Islamic group fighting in Indian Kashmir, to be behind the kidnapping.

But through their e-mail messages, the kidnappers identified themselves as members of the hitherto unknown National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty.

Guantanamo prisoner
Kidnappers demanded release of those held in Camp X-Ray
They wanted the release of Pakistani prisoners held by the US at Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

They also wanted freedom for Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, former Taleban ambassador in Pakistan, now in US custody in a detention centre in Afghanistan.

The kidnappers have not gained any sympathy for their cause by seizing a defenceless reporter.

There is no doubt in my mind that Daniel Pearl was a journalist, even though the kidnappers first alleged that he was working for the American CIA and later accused him of being an agent for the Israeli secret service, Mossad.

Risk


Journalists are keen to report from where the action is.

Mr Pearl's kidnapping may have unnerved foreign journalists working in Pakistan - but it did not trigger a mass exodus.

Pakistan is a difficult place to work for a host of reasons, one being the strong anti-US feelings in the wake of the American military campaign in neighbouring Afghanistan.

However, none of the more than 2,000 foreign journalists who converged on Pakistan when US air strikes on Afghanistan began, has been kidnapped or harassed.

Journalists are keen to report from where the action is.

And Pakistan is bound to remain a preferred destination because there is never a dearth of stories in this politically unstable region.


The victim

The militant

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See also:

04 Feb 02 | South Asia
29 Jan 02 | South Asia
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