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Key Pakistani Suspect Thinks American Journalist is Dead - 2002-02-15

A key suspect in the kidnapping of American journalist Daniel Pearl says he thinks the reporter is dead. Officials from The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Pearl's employer, say they remain confident that Mr. Pearl is still alive.

During a court appearance in Karachi on Thursday, Amed Omar Sheikh told the judge that as far as he knows, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl is dead.

The British-born Islamic militant also confessed in his statement that he kidnapped Mr. Pearl. But he gave no details on where or when the 38-year-old American reporter may have been killed.

Mr. Sheikh surrendered to authorities earlier this week. He was brought to the court in Karachi under tight security, and was formally charged with kidnapping. The Islamic leader also told the anti-terrorist court he does not want to defend the case, saying he had his own reasons for kidnapping Mr. Pearl. In his words, Pakistan should not be catering to the needs of America.

A government lawyer told reporters after the proceedings that Omar Sheikh had not given the statement about the death of the American reporter under oath.

Pakistan's Interior Minister, Moinuddin Haider, is quoted as saying that he will reserve judgment until a body is found.

Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl disappeared in Karachi three weeks ago, while trying to contact members of radical Islamic groups. He was believed to be working on a story about possible links between Pakistani militants and terrorist suspects in the United States.

The development in the kidnapping crisis comes a day after Pakistan leader General Pervez Musharraf met with President Bush in Washington. General Musharraf told reporters after the meeting that intense efforts were being made to recover the American reporter, and that he had reasons to believe Mr. Pearl was alive.

Meanwhile, officials from The Wall Street Journal say the paper remains confident that Mr. Pearl is still alive.