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Fate of Kidnapped American in Pakistan Unclear - 2002-02-01

The deadline set by kidnappers in Pakistan threatening to kill an American journalist has passed with conflicting reports about his fate. There has been no firm word about the condition or whereabouts of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Late Friday, Pakistani police were quoted as saying the U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan had received a phone call demanding a $2 million ransom in exchange for the reporter's release. It's not known if the demand came from the group holding Daniel Pearl.

Among the original demands by the group which claimed to have kidnapped him is the return of Pakistanis being detained by the United States in Cuba as well as the Taleban's former ambassador to Pakistan.

Also Friday, two American cable television networks, CNN and Fox, both said they received an e-mail message claiming that Daniel Pearl had been killed.

At the State Department, U.S. officials said they were aware of those reports but could determine whether they are true.

The publisher of The Wall Street Journal issued a statement in New York saying the newspaper remains hopeful Mr. Pearl is still alive.

President Bush told reporters Friday that U.S. efforts to find the reporter are continuing. "We are trying to follow the trail of the e-mails that have been sent with the sole purpose of saving this man, of finding him and rescuing him," he said.

Mr. Pearl disappeared in Karachi last week while working on a story about Islamic militants.

The group that claims to have kidnapped Daniel Pearl is now threatening to abduct other American journalists in Pakistan.