January 28, 2002
2220 IST

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Pakistani group claims to hold WSJ reporter captive

A little-known Pakistani terrorist group, the National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty, has claimed holding a Wall Street Journal reporter captive.

The WSJ reported on its Web site that the group had sent this information by email, accusing the reporter, Daniel Pearl, of being a Central Intelligence Agency officer.

The email was accompanied by four photographs of Pearl, one of which showed a man holding a gun to his head, and demanded better treatment for fighters of the Al Qaeda and Taliban being held by the United States at the naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Police sources said they believe that the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen had abducted Pearl.

A number of HuM fighters were believed to have been killed in the war waged by the US-led coalition against the Al Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan.

Pearl, 38, is a reporter based in Mumbai. He has been missing since Wednesday, when he went to visit a source near Karachi, the paper said.

Steven Goldstein, Vice President of Dow Jones & Co, which owns the WSJ, said the newspaper did not have any contact with the group that claims to hold Pearl. He, however, said that the photographs appear to be legitimate.

The newspaper and the CIA denied that Pearl was a spy posing as a reporter.

CIA spokeswoman Anya Guilsher told a news agency: "Although we don't normally discuss such matters, Daniel Pearl... has not ever worked with the CIA."

The journal quoted the email as saying that Pearl was being held in "very inhuman conditions" quite similar, in fact, to the way Pakistanis and nationals of other sovereign countries were being kept in Cuba by the US.

"If the Americans keep our countrymen in better conditions, then we will better the conditions of Pearl and all the other Americans that we capture," the email said.

Goldstein said that the group was wrong in assuming that the newspaper group could change the policies of the US and Pakistan government. "As a private citizen employed by an independent newspaper, neither Pearl nor we can change the policies of the US or Pakistan," Goldstein said.

The email said that Pakistanis being held at Guantanamo Bay must be given access to lawyers and their families, and they must be returned to Pakistan. It also called for the release of Afghanistan's former ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salaam Zaeef.

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