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January 31, 2002
1348 IST

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WSJ reporter kidnap case: Key suspect surrenders, but plot thickens

A key suspect in the kidnapping of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl has surrendered to the Pakistani police pleading innocence even as he admitted to recruiting and training militants to fight in different places, including Kashmir.

Even as the media in Islamabad and the WSJ received fresh e-mail messages on Wednesday from Pearl's captors threatening to kill him within 24 hours, a local Al Qaeda activist from Rawalpindi, considered a prime suspect in the case, surrendered to the police on Wednesday night.

Pakistan daily The News reported on Thursday that the police, however, failed to get any substantial information from the surrendered suspect, Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani, leader of the defunct Jamiat al Fuqra group.

Gilani claimed that he had nothing to do with Pearl's abduction but admitted that he trained a number of local and foreign youth to fight in Kashmir and other places.

Gilani, who was found absconding, was believed to be the last man the US journalist reportedly met before he went missing a few days ago. This raised suspicion that he was connected with the kidnapping.

After surrendering to the police in Rawalpindi, Gilani was taken to Karachi where he was interrogated by Pakistan police officials and American FBI agents.

Police were stunned to hear Gilani saying that he has hundreds of supporters in the US who he claimed would react adversely if he was arrested, the newspaper said.

Gilani's al-Fuqra organisation is reported to have recruited hundreds of black Muslims in the US in mid eighties. Later, they were motivated to participate in jihad in various countries of the world, it said.

Investigations about Gilani's background revealed that several US citizens had visited him in the early nineties and they all had acquired some sort of guerrilla training at a facility sponsored by him near Abbottabad in Pakistan.

The newspaper said police raided a compound at Abbottabad on January 29 where the surrendered suspect was thought to have established a training camp, but could not find any training facilities.

The US and Pakistani detectives were busy on Wednesday tracing Gilani's travel records and his present connections in the US, where he lived for several years during the eighties.

However, his extradition to the US was ruled out, the newspaper said.

ALSO READ
FBI team sent to Karachi to help locate Daniel Pearl
Breakthrough in WSJ scribe abduction case

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