Pakistani Police Charge Three Suspects With Kidnapping Reporter

Pakistani authorities charged three people with kidnapping Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl on Friday.

The three men charged were identified as Farhad Naseem, Sheikh Mohammed Adeel, a constable with the police department's special branch, and Salman Saqib. The men allegedly sent threatening e-mails with pictures of Pearl in captivity on Jan. 27 and Jan. 30. to the Journal from a Karachi apartment complex.

The e-mails, demanding that Pakistani prisoners held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay be repatriated for trial, were found on Naseem's laptop computer, police said.

A police source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Saqib and Adeel both admitted traveling to Afghanistan, where they met the chief suspect, Ahmad Omar Saeed Sheikh, who remains at large.

Police arrested Naseem, who lived in the apartment complex, and the two other men Sunday night, police Inspector Qamer Ahmed said. Naseem claimed to have received the e-mails from Saeed, the inspector said.

After dismissing several other e-mails as hoaxes, Pakistani and U.S. investigators traced the two genuine e-mails to an Internet service provider in the Noman Grand City apartment complex in the middle-class Gulistan-e-Jahaur neighborhood of Karachi.

The owner of the service provider, Naeem Ahmad, said police had questioned all 70 of his clients in the complex and had them retrieve e-mails sent during the same period the kidnappers sent theirs.

Although Naseem denied sending any e-mails on those dates, Ahmad said, records indicated otherwise. A check of the hard drive on his laptop computer turned up the e-mails, Ahmad said. Naseem had erased his files and browser but neglected to clean the hard drive.

The e-mails were sent in the name of an unknown group — the National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty.

Pearl, 38, was abducted Jan. 23 en route to a meeting in Karachi with Muslim extremist contacts. He was believed to be investigating links between Pakistani militants and Richard C. Reid, a Briton arrested on a Paris-to-Miami flight in December with explosives in his shoes. Police believe Pearl is still alive.

Police Inspector Kamal Shah said the men facing charges will appear in court Monday. Under Pakistani law, the judge can either set a trial date, hold them for further investigation or free them.

Police detained Naseem's uncle late Thursday in Karachi and were questioning him. Detention of relatives is a common tactic used by Pakistani police to pressure suspects into surrendering.

"We are working on a variety of clues. We are hopeful that the case will be solved very soon," said Mukhtar Ahmed Sheikh, the government official overseeing police in Sindh province. "I believe that Pearl is alive."

Police were raiding homes in search of relatives and friends of Saeed, said Farooq Awan, a deputy superintendent of police in Karachi. Most of the raids were being conducted in the eastern city of Lahore, with some occurring in Karachi, Awan said.

Saeed, 27, is a British-born Islamic militant who police suspect is linked to Jaish-e-Mohammed, an extremist group fighting Indian rule in Kashmir that has close ties to Usama bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorist network. Several of Saeed's relatives have been detained.

Saeed was arrested in 1994 in India in connection with the kidnapping of four British backpackers. He spent five years in an Indian prison but never was tried.

He was freed along with two other militants on Dec. 31, 1999, in exchange for passengers on an Indian Airlines flight hijacked to Kandahar, Afghanistan.

President Pervez Musharraf, who is to meet with President Bush in the United States next week, said he was "extremely hopeful" that the case would be solved successfully.

"We are getting near," Musharraf told reporters at a joint news conference with Afghan leader Hamid Karzai in the capital, Islamabad. "We got some key personalities." Musharraf refused to elaborate.

The kidnapping has embarrassed Musharraf's government, which broke with Afghanistan's former Taliban rulers after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and backed the United States in the war against terrorism.

Musharraf banned five Islamic extremist groups last month, including Jaish-e-Mohammed. Pakistani authorities hope to solve the case before Musharraf visits the United States next week.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.