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February 10, 2002
1855 IST

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Pak cops doubt allegations of Indian link to Pearl kidnapping

Police officials in Karachi have expressed serious doubts over allegations of Indian links to the kidnapping of US journalist Daniel Pearl.

According to Pakistan's The News daily, police investigators, with the help of the US investigation agency FBI, had established that the three Indian telephone numbers called from the cell phone that was used to lure Pearl to a Karachi restaurant, were of an Indian cabinet minister and two Members of Parliament.

But, it was later found that the Indian telephone numbers were listed on an Indian website and it appeared that the calls to New Delhi were made to deceive the investigators, the newspaper said.

"So far, the kidnapping seems to be an indigenous plot, unless (key suspect) Omar Sheikh appears and confesses to fronting for Indian intelligence," it quoted a senior Pakistani police official as saying.

"It is ridiculous to expect a kidnapper to use the most monitored telephone connection in Karachi to talk to his bosses in New Delhi," the police official said.

He said it was now established that Imtiaz Siddiqi, the cover name for the person who had made the last call to Pearl in Karachi to confirm his appointment, is still using the same mobile phone connection to mislead the investigators.

"From the same number, calls have been made to issue threats to the IGP Sindh, the Karachi police chief, to the US consulate general in Karachi and the residence of a leader of Karachi's most famous political party," revealed a senior police official.

The newspaper also reported that police on Friday made the jailed chief of the banned militant outfit Jaish-e-Muhammad, Masood Azhar, call the key suspect in the kidnapping case on his mobile phone to make a last minute appeal for Pearl's release.

Without denying his association with Omar Sheikh, who had twice staged identical kidnappings in India in the mid-90s to seek Azhar's release from an Indian prison, the Jaish leader reached Sheikh on one of his cell phones at the instance of the police.

It made little difference as Sheikh flatly denied his involvement in Pearl's kidnapping, the newspaper said.

Meanwhile, in a separate communication to senior Pakistani security officials, the Jaish-e-Muhammad claimed that Sheikh was not associated with it, the paper added.

EARLIER REPORT:
India denies role in Pearl kidnap

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