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Tuesday, 29 January, 2002, 11:00 GMT
US concern over missing journalist
Daniel Pearl with copy of Dawn
Mr Pearl went missing during a reporting assignment
The US administration is in touch with the Pakistani authorities about an American journalist apparently kidnapped in Karachi by a Pakistani militant group.


This is a serious matter, and it is being pursued by the US government

Ari Fleischer, White House spokesman
Journalist Daniel Pearl, who works for the Wall Street Journal, went missing last week when he went to interview leaders of some radical Islamist groups.

A Pakistani group calling itself the National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty says it is holding Mr Pearl.

'Strong interest'

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says US officials have been in contact with their Pakistani counterparts about the search for Mr Pearl.

He says the US will "give whatever help can be given" to obtain the journalist's release.

Mr Fleischer said Mr Pearl "was a journalist just trying to do his job. This is a serious matter, and it is being pursued by the United States Government."

US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says Secretary of State Colin Powell has discussed the issue with President Pervez Musharraf, expressing "strong interest" in it.

Pakistani policemen at Pearl's house
Police say investigations are making some progress
This came after the hitherto unknown Pakistani group released photographs of Mr Pearl, one of them with a pistol held to his head.

The group demands better conditions for the US prisoners captured in Afghanistan and held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

An accompanying message said Mr Pearl was being held in conditions - similar, it said, to those experienced by al-Qaeda suspects being held at the US base at Guantanamo Bay.

Their captive would receive better treatment only if conditions at Camp X-Ray improved and Pakistani detainees were sent home, the group said in an e-mail.

Both the newspaper and the US authorities have denied his captors' claims that he works for the CIA.

Investigation

A senior Pakistani police officer told the Reuters news agency that their investigations had met some "preliminary success".

He said a number of different Pakistani government agencies were working closely together with the Wall Street Journal and their inquiries were continuing.

Earlier, Pakistani police questioned and released five men in connection with Mr Pearl's disappearance.

The Wall Street Journal said the photos it had received of Mr Pearl appeared legitimate, but it had had no direct contact with the alleged kidnappers.

Pakistani protester
Muslim groups opposed the war in Afghanistan
"In the interest of humanity, the terrorists should release Mr Pearl immediately," Steven Goldstein, a vice president of Dow Jones & Co, the Journal's owner, said.

The e-mail was sent using Microsoft's free e-mail service, Hotmail, with the user name "kidnapperguy," according to the New York Times - which was among the US media recipients.

In it, the group demanded that Pakistanis held at Camp X-Ray be allowed to meet their lawyers and families.

It also called for the release of F-16 fighter aircraft paid for by Pakistan in the 1980s but held back by the US because of Pakistan's clandestine nuclear weapons programme.

See also:

28 Jan 02 | South Asia
Militants kidnap US journalist
27 Jan 02 | South Asia
Search for US journalist in Pakistan
27 Jan 02 | Americas
No POW rights for Cuba prisoners
13 Jan 02 | South Asia
Pakistan's militant Islamic groups
12 Jan 02 | South Asia
Pakistan to regulate religious schools
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