NEW YORK – A group claiming to have seized a Wall Street Journal reporter missing in Pakistan said he was being held in "inhuman conditions" comparable to those of suspected terrorists in U.S. custody, the newspaper reported Sunday.
An e-mail from "The National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty" accused reporter Daniel Pearl of being a CIA officer posing as a journalist, the Journal reported Sunday on its Web site.
The newspaper said the e-mail was accompanied by four photographs of Pearl, with one showing him with a gun to his head, and demanded better treatment for fighters being held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba.
In Pakistan, police sources speaking on condition they not be identified told The Associated Press they believe Pearl was kidnapped by Harkat ul-Mujahedeen, which has close ties to Al Qaeda and is on the U.S. government's terrorist organizations list. A number of Harkat fighters were known to have been killed in Afghanistan during the bombing campaign.
Pearl, 38, a reporter based in Bombay, India, has been missing since Wednesday, when he went to visit a source near Karachi, Pakistan, for a story about terrorism, the newspaper said.
Steven Goldstein, a vice president of Dow Jones & Co., the Journal's owner, said the newspaper "has not had any direct contact with the group" that claimed to hold Pearl, and didn't have any knowledge of the police sources' report on possible kidnappers.
He said the photographs appear to be legitimate but would not be distributed.
Both the newspaper and the Central Intelligence Agency denied that Pearl worked for the agency.
"Although we don't normally discuss such matters, Daniel Pearl does not now nor has he ever worked for the CIA," agency spokeswoman Anya Guilsher told the AP on Sunday.
Guilsher would not comment on the group named in the e-mail or its demands.
The Journal quoted the e-mail as saying Pearl was being held "in very inhuman circumstances quite similar in fact to the way Pakistanis and nationals of other sovereign countries are being kept in Cuba by the American army. If the Americans keep our countrymen in better conditions, than we will better the conditions of Mr. Pearl and all other Americans that we capture."
Goldstein said the group had made a mistaken assumption.
"As a private citizen employed by an independent newspaper, neither Mr. Pearl, nor we, can change the policies of the United States or Pakistan," Goldstein said.
The e-mail said Pakistanis being held at Guantanamo must be given access to lawyers and their families, and "must be returned to Pakistan and they will be tried in a Pakistani court."
It also called for the release of Afghanistan's former ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, who was the Taliban's most-recognized spokesman. He was deported from Pakistan to Afghanistan in early January and turned over to U.S. military forces, and is one of the highest-ranking Taliban officials in U.S. custody.
Goldstein said the e-mail had been sent to "many different people" at The New York Times and The Washington Post, and "was sent to us by couple of people." He said the Journal received it early Sunday.
New York Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis confirmed the e-mail was addressed to nine of the newspaper's generic e-mail addresses but not to any individuals. "To the best of our knowledge no one at the Times sent it to the Wall Street Journal," Mathis said.
The e-mail recipients appeared to be chosen at random from the newspapers' Web sites.
Andy Mosher, deputy foreign editor at The Washington Post, said six individuals there received copies of the e-mail, including a reporter in Jakarta, Indonesia.
The Journal said Pearl has been a staff reporter for 12 years, in Atlanta, Washington and London, and has been its South Asia bureau chief since December 2000. He was in Karachi to interview leaders of radical Islamic groups, the newspaper said.