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Federal Grand Jury Indicts Pearl Murder Suspect on Two Charges

By Dan Eggen
THE WASHINGTON POST -- A federal grand jury in New Jersey indicted a British national Thursday in the kidnapping and slaying of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan, paving the way for U.S. efforts to try the case on American soil.

Ahmad Omar Saeed Sheikh, an Islamic militant who was previously charged in a separate kidnapping, was accused by U.S. authorities of orchestrating a plot to lure Pearl into captivity in Karachi through the use of fictitious e-mails and other subterfuge.

Saeed, who is currently in Pakistani custody, was charged with conspiracy to commit hostage-taking that resulted in Pearl’s death, and hostage-taking that resulted in the reporter’s death. Both crimes are punishable by death.

“Saeed led a ring of co-conspirators who carefully and methodically set a death trap for Daniel Pearl, lured him into it with lies and savagely ended his life,” Attorney General John Ashcroft said Thursday. “The men who conspired to kill Daniel Pearl and kidnap Bela Nuss did not act at random, but carefully chose their targets, their methods and their words.”

Saeed said in a Pakistani court last month that he helped plan Pearl’s abduction, then claimed later that police tried to coerce him into making a false confession.

Pearl, 38, the Journal’s South Asia bureau chief, was kidnapped in January while researching a story about connections between Islamic militants in Pakistan and Richard Reid, who allegedly attempted to blow up an airliner in December with bombs hidden in his shoes. Almost a month later, a video containing grisly footage of Pearl’s slaying was delivered to the U.S. consulate in Karachi.

Thursday’s indictment, filed in Trenton, N.J., near the Wall Street Journal headquarters, is aimed in part at applying pressure on Pakistani authorities to turn over Saeed, officials said. It was handed up by a New Jersey grand jury because e-mails from Pearl’s kidnappers were received by the Journal in that state.