KARACHI, Pakistan – Reports that kidnapped Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl had been found dead outside a Pakistani jail have been proven false, Karachi police said Sunday.
The city's police chief said he and others have confirmed that a corpse shot in the head and left by the side of a road was not the missing journalist's, according to the latest reports.
Earlier Sunday afternoon, U.S. television news reported that Pearl had been found dead, but they took back their stories based on the most recent information. The corpse was found near a prison in Karachi.
The inspector general and assistant inspector general in Karachi have told Fox News that they've seen the body in question and identified it as someone other than Pearl. There is no word on who the dead man might be, but he was said to have been wearing a shirt similar to one Pearl has been seen in.
Police also told Fox News that as far as they know, Pearl's pregnant wife Mariane and other family members have not yet seen the body, despite reports to the contrary.
Meanwhile, leads into the abducted journalist's whereabouts continued to yield nothing, and authorities turned their attention from Islamic terrorist groups to the Karachi criminal underworld.
"So far no breakthrough has been made, but some progress has been made in investigations," Pakistani Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider said Sunday.
Other investigators, speaking on condition of anonymity, said police still had no firm idea who was holding Pearl or where he was.
The investigation into his kidnapping was diverted thanks to several bogus e-mails claiming that Pearl had been killed and his body tossed in a Karachi cemetery.
But after finding no trace of Pearl in several city graveyards Saturday, police dismissed the e-mail as a prank. Authorities arrested a number of people on charges related to the hoax electronic mailings.
Police believe Pearl may have been moved out of Karachi, a port city of 12 million people. On Fox News Sunday, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice urged Pearl's captors to let him go.
"We certainly hope that the kidnappers understand that they're doing ... and that Daniel Pearl needs to be released, and released right away," she said.
Rice said the Pakistani government was actively helping in the investigation.
"We're getting very good cooperation from the government of Pakistan, and we're working hard with them," she said. "We couldn't be doing better with Pakistan in trying to solve this difficult situation ... We just hope that this can come to a resolution very, very quickly."
Pakistani authorities hope for a breakthrough in the case before President Pervez Musharraf visits the U.S. next week.
"The various agencies of the United States government are actively trying to be helpful," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Sunday on ABC's This Week. "The Pakistani government is doing what they can do."
Pakistani police, however, have been unable to find two primary suspects, Mohammed Hashim and Bashir Ahmad Shabbir. Hashim, also known as "Arif," is believed to be a member of Harkat ul-Mujahedeen, or Movement of the Holy Warriors, an Islamicist paramilitary organization active in Kashmir and with close ties to Usama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network.
Shabbir was a follower of Sheik Gilani, police said.
"Arif" was reportedly one of the contacts helping Pearl set up his interview with Gilani. Pearl had contacted both him and Shabbir in the weeks before the kidnapping, according to police, and four days before the kidnapping, Shabbir e-mailed Pearl and told him that an interview with Gilani had been arranged in Karachi.
Gilani was arrested last week, but investigators say it is uncertain whether he played any role in the abduction.
Shabbir's family has told police that they believe he was killed in Afghanistan. On Sunday, his father, Abdul Qadeer, said he did not believe his son was involved in the kidnapping "but if he is, he should immediately free the hostage and give himself up."
"Islam and jihad [holy war] don't allow kidnappings," he said at his home in southern Pakistan. "The American journalist is a guest in Pakistan. It's the responsibility of all Muslims to protect him."
The father has been questioned, but local authorities denied he had been arrested.
In the capital, Islamabad, a top-level government task force met Sunday to review the investigation. A source who took part in the meeting said the participants discussed the possibility that the kidnapping may have been carried out by one of Karachi's numerous criminal gangs.
The source spoke on condition of anonymity.
However, Mukhtar Ahmad Sheik, who is in charge of security here in Sindh province, confirmed that the investigation was not limited to religious extremists.
"We are keeping all options open in our investigations," he said. "The list of suspects ranges from religious extremists to gangs of criminals."
But Jamil Yusuf, chief of the Citizen-Police Liaison Committee, was skeptical about a criminal link. He said authorities have been stymied because Pearl's abduction does not fit the pattern of most kidnappings, in which gangs routinely contact the victim's family by telephone.
A team trained in the United States in anti-terror tactics and crisis management has been formed to find Pearl, reported a Pakistani newspaper, The News on Sunday.
Federal Bureau of Investigation agents are also involved in the case.
Pakistani and U.S. news media have received at least six e-mails purportedly from the kidnappers, the previously unknown National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty.
However, police consider only the first two of them, which had attached photos of Pearl, as genuine.
The pictures variously showed Pearl with a gun to his head, with his hands chained and holding an edition of a local newspaper.
A 16-year-old boy in Lahore was arrested for sending a phony e-mail, which did not claim Pearl was dead, and two youths working at a Karachi Internet cafe also were detained and questioned.
Police said that the Lahore teenager admitted sending two of the bogus e-mails. Authorities gave no further details except that the youth was released without charge into the custody of his parents.
Police said they believed a ransom demand, telephoned to U.S. diplomats Friday, also was a fake. The caller demanded a $2 million ransom and the release of a former Taliban diplomat.
Mukhtar Ahmad Sheikh, provincial governor of Sindh province, which includes Karachi, expressed hope Saturday that Pearl would be found "as we believe the man is still alive."
The Journal appealed Saturday to the kidnappers to show evidence that Pearl was still alive.
"We urge them to release Danny," Journal Managing Editor Paul Steiger said in a statement in New York. "If that is not possible, we call on them to demonstrate that Danny remains alive. They can do this by providing us with a photo of Danny holding today's newspaper."
In an open letter to the Pakistani people, published in the Urdu-language newspaper Jang, Mairiane Pearl, who is six months pregnant with the couple's first child, asked the kidnappers to free her husband "as people inspired by Islam's ethics."
"I ask them to be people who have the courage to actually take the first step to end this cycle of suffering," she said. "Let real justice win. Maybe because you have suffered so much, because you are crying so much for justice, maybe you are the first ones to implement justice."
U.S. diplomats were working with the Pakistani government to obtain Pearl's release, but Secretary of State Colin Powell has ruled out meeting the kidnappers' demands.
In Washington, the Council on American-Islamic Relations demanded Pearl's immediate and unconditional release.
"Such actions by those claiming to act on behalf of Muslims are in sharp contradiction to Islamic teachings and violate the internationally-accepted neutral status of journalists during times of conflict," board chairman Omar Ahmad said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.