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Monday, 11 February, 2002, 18:37 GMT
Kidnap suspect 'may be in Lahore'
Police trace computer
Police have traced a computer used to send e-mails
Pakistani police say the chief suspect in the abduction of American journalist Daniel Pearl may be hiding in the city of Lahore, in Punjab province.

They said they had brief contact with the suspect, Sheikh Omar Saeed, last week and believed he was in Lahore at the time.

The chief of police in Karachi, where Mr Pearl disappeared, also told the BBC that they had learnt that Sheikh Omar could be in Punjab.

Police say the kidnappers have made no contact since e-mails including photographs of the captive Wall Street Journal reporter were sent out a week after he disappeared on 23 January.

Three men arrested for helping to send the e-mails were presented before a judge on Monday.

However, the judge sought the Attorney-General's advice on the court's jurisdiction and the three men were returned to police custody without being remanded.

They are expected to appear in court again on Tuesday.

Manhunt

The investigating authorities have identified Sheikh Omar Saeed as the main suspect in the case, and linked him to the banned militant group, Jaish-e-Mohammed.

"He is the focus of the hunt. We are sparing no efforts to track him down. All our agencies are at it," federal Interior Secretary Tasneem Noorani said.

Karachi police chief Kamal Shah told the BBC's Hindi service that the detained leader of the Jaish, Maulana Masood Azhar, had told them that Sheikh Omar could be in Punjab.

Mr Azhar was released along with Sheikh Omar by Indian authorities in 1999, in exchange for hostages on board a hijacked Indian airliner.

Pakistani police approached Mr Azhar to help them track Sheikh Omar but the Jaish leader said he was unable to do anything.

Mr Shah said he was now in touch with Punjab police officials to ask for their co-operation.

Brief contact

On Sunday Pakistan's Interior Minister, Moinuddin Haider, said that an aunt of Sheikh Omar had urged him to give himself up.

Mr Haider told reporters in Karachi that the unnamed aunt had spoken to him on a mobile telephone when she was detained by the police last Tuesday.

Correspondents say the case threatens to cast a shadow over the official visit to Washington by Pakistan's President, Pervez Musharraf, that begins on Tuesday.

Last week General Musharraf alleged that India may have had a role in the kidnapping of Daniel Pearl.

However, the claims were dismissed by India.

See also:

08 Feb 02 | South Asia
Three charged in Pearl kidnap case
06 Feb 02 | South Asia
Suspect named in reporter's kidnap
06 Feb 02 | South Asia
In pictures: Daniel Pearl kidnapping
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