Monday Feb. 25, 2002
WASHINGTON - The suspected mastermind in the abduction and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was secretly indicted last year by a federal grand jury for a foiled 1994 kidnapping, Newsweek magazine reported yesterday.
The charges brought in Washington in a grand jury indictment against Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh involved four Western tourists in India, the magazine said. One of the four was an American.
Taken into custody Feb. 5 in the Pearl case, Saeed told interrogators that his group wanted to teach the United States a lesson and Pearl's murder was just a first step, intelligence officials said in Pakistan.
In the abduction eight years ago, Indian authorities found the victims and imprisoned Saeed and his accomplices, who had been seeking freedom for Islamic extremists. Saeed's supporters won his release by hijacking an Indian airliner in 1999 and stabbing a passenger to death.
Justice Department officials pressed the National Security Council about extraditing Saeed to the United States, an administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press on yesterday.
Following the Justice Department contact with the NSC, the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Wendy Chamberlin, raised the subject of extraditing Saeed on Jan. 9 with the foreign minister to President Pervez Musharraf, the official said.
Pearl was kidnapped Jan. 23. The next day, FBI Director Robert Mueller and Chamberlin discussed Saeed at a previously scheduled meeting with Musharraf. But at that point there was no link between Pearl's kidnapping and Saeed, the official said. Mueller and Chamberlin asked that Pakistan "provide all assistance" in getting Pearl released.
The United States and Pakistan do not have an extradition treaty.
Sen. Richard Shelby, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said such a treaty should be priority. Shelby, R-Ala., also said on CNN's "Late Edition" that Pakistan might bring the killers to justice there, but "if they're not going to do the job," other steps might be necessary.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said bringing Saeed and others to the United States to stand trial is a possibility.
"The United States government may very well want to try to extradite the people involved if possible for the killing of an American, which would seem to me as a non-lawyer to be a reasonable thing," Rumsfeld said on CBS's "Face the Nation."
Rumsfeld said it would be up to President Bush to decide whether anyone brought here for Pearl's killing would be tried by a military tribunal rather than in civilian courts.
On NBC's "Meet the Press," Rumsfeld said he did not think Pearl's kidnapping was connected to the fact that the Journal provided the Pentagon a hard-drive computer disk last year. Rumsfeld said it contained "a great deal of information that would be helpful from an intelligence standpoint. ... We are appreciative of that."
"But my impression is that what took place with respect to Mr. Pearl was really more opportunistic, that these people were looking for people they could grab," said Rumsfeld.