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Pakistani Officials Believe Kidnapped Journalist Is Alive - 2002-02-12

Authorities in Pakistan have captured the main suspect in the kidnapping of American journalist Daniel Pearl. Pakistani officials believe Mr. Pearl is alive.

Pakistani officials are not disclosing the circumstances that led to the arrest of chief suspect Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh. The British-born Islamic militant is accused of masterminding the kidnapping of American journalist Daniel Pearl.

A Pakistani spokesman, Tasneem Noorani has said the police were putting pressure on his contacts.

"One of the suspects who was very actively being sought, Sheikh Omar, was today arrested in Lahore. It is a good development, but let us wait and see because in these matters it is very difficult to say anything prematurely," he said.

Mr. Noorani said that investigators questioning the chief suspect are hopeful this will lead to the solution of the case. Other officials are quoted as saying he has told investigators that American reporter Daniel Pearl is alive and is in Karachi.

Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl disappeared in Karachi nearly three weeks ago while making contacts with Muslim militants. He was trying to investigate links between radical Islamic groups in Pakistan and terrorist acts in the United States.

The kidnappers of the American reporter have threatened to kill him unless the U.S. government releases Pakistani prisoners from the war on terrorism in Afghanistan.

Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation are helping Pakistani investigators to resolve the case.

Sheikh Omar is also wanted in India. In 1994 he was jailed in India for allegedly kidnapping four western tourists, including one American. The Islamic militant was freed along with two other associates in 1999 in exchange for 155 hostages on an Indian airliner hijacked to Afghanistan.

The development in Daniel Pearl's case comes as a boost for Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf who is in the United States on an official trip.