Suspect Arrested in Daniel Pearl Murder Plot

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An Islamic militant accused of helping to plan the kidnapping and killing of American reporter Daniel Pearl (search) was arrested at a bus station in central Pakistan on Thursday, police said.

The suspect, Qari Abdul Hai, who allegedly had close ties with the Taliban (search), is the chief of a banned militant group condemned by the United States as a terrorist organization, police said. The group has been accused of involvement in bombings at public places in Pakistan.

Hai was captured in Muzaffargarh, 60 miles west of Multan, as he was about to board a bus for Karachi (search), the southern city where Pearl was kidnapped on Jan. 23, 2002, and later found dead, police official Awais Malik said.

Police refused to give more details about Hai's alleged role in Pearl's kidnapping.

Four Islamic militants were convicted last year of involvement in the kidnap-slaying of Pearl. One of them, British-born Islamic militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, was sentenced to death, and the three others were given life sentences. All four have filed appeals.

Malik said Hai is head of the banned Sunni Muslim Lashkar-e-Jhangvi militant group, which was designated a terrorist group by Washington this year.

Secretary of State Colin Powell has said that Lakshar-e-Jhanvi is believed to have been involved in the crimes against Pearl and many bus and church bombings in Pakistan.

Most of the group's leaders have either been arrested, killed in police confrontations or gone underground. Its former chief, Riaz Basra, was killed in May 2002 in a shootout with police in a village in the eastern province of Punjab.

Malik said there was a $35,000 reward for Hai's arrest and that he had been linked to the murders of many Shiite Muslims in different parts of the country in recent years.

Hai had close links with the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan, Malik said.