Investigators in Pakistan say they have narrowed their search for kidnapped American journalist Daniel Pearl. They are blaming an outlawed Islamic militant group, which is allegedly linked to terror suspect Osama bin Laden.

Authorities say they are closing in on the kidnappers of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

Investigators, requesting not to be named, told VOA they have established the identity of the abductors, and that they believe Mr. Pearl is alive.

The development follows the detention Tuesday of three men accused of sending e-mail messages on behalf of the kidnappers. The detainees are said to have named a prominent Muslim cleric, Sheikh Omar Saeed, as the source of the messages.

Authorities are chasing Mr. Saeed and have detained some of his relatives in the process.

The British-born Islamic leader is a member of the extremist group Jaish-e-Mohammed, which the United States considers a terrorist organization. It is believed to have links with accused terrorist Osama bin Laden. The Pakistani organization is also blamed for terror attacks in neighboring India.

Police officials say the three detained men are being interrogated and that they are "optimistic" the case will soon be resolved. Agents of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are also helping Pakistani authorities in the investigation.

The Wall Street Journal reporter disappeared two weeks ago in Karachi, while trying to investigate links between Pakistani militants and terrorist acts in the United States.

Among other things, his kidnappers have demanded that Pakistanis taken prisoner in Afghanistan be released. The abductors have threatened to kill the American reporter unless the United States meets their demands.

Meanwhile, Mr. Pearl's wife has again pleaded for his release, saying he is an innocent man. The kidnappers have accused the American reporter of being a spy for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Israel. Both The Wall Street Journal and U.S. officials have denied the charges.