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February 00, 2002
1248 IST

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Suspect in Pearl's case claims links with Pak secret service, other officials

Notwithstanding claims by Pakistan of Indian links to the kidnapping of US journalist Daniel Pearl, a key suspect in the case has said he had provided 'invaluable services' to Pakistan's security service agency in the past.

The suspect, Syed Mubarrak Ali Gilani, told interrogators that besides having provided invaluable services to Pakistan's secret services, he received half a million dollars annually in donations from abroad.

Pakistan daily The News reported on Friday that Gilani, a Rawalpindi-based millionaire militant who surrendered to the police two days ago pleading ignorance about Pearl's abduction, gave names of the security officials he knew for an independent verification of the claims.

To back his claims, Gilani during his interrogation at Rawalpindi requested the senior police investigators for permission to call his contacts in the government.

The police dismissed the disclosures as not having any relevance to the present case.

"There is no need to cross-check the sensitive information," a police official said.

According to the newspaper, intelligence officials had persuaded Gilani to surrender. To facilitate his appearance before the police on Wednesday, a mid-level law security official from a sensitive agency is understood to have played an active role, a senior police official said.

Gilani was considered a prime suspect in Pearl's kidnapping as he was believed to have been the last person whom the reporter met in the course of his investigations into the activities of Al Qaeda and jihadi (holy war) groups.

Another key suspect, Aarif alias Hashim, for whom the police launched a manhunt is believed to be dead.

As Pearl's kidnappers extended the deadline for his execution by a day on Thursday, Aarif's father told the police in Bahawalpur in Pakistan's Punjab province that he received an information from Afghanistan that his son had been killed while fighting US forces.

Bahawalpur was the headquarters of the banned militant group Jaish-e-Muhammad, one of the two organisations blamed by India for the attack on Parliament.

Aarif, activist of an unidentified militant organisation, had reportedly met Pearl in Rawalpindi twice before the WSJ correspondent went missing.

Meanwhile, Gilani also sprang a surprise on the police by offering to prove that his disciples in the US contributed about half a million dollars every year to his religious activities in Pakistan. He said he received donation in the form of cash and wire transfers.

Married six times, the 65-year-old heavy-built cleric said he had invested a portion of the donations in real estate in the North West Frontier Province and in Punjab and owned an estimated one billion rupees worth of agriculture and commercial real estate in Pakistan.

EARLIER REPORT:
No negotiations with kidnappers: Powell

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