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Friday, October 24, 2003

US officials: Daniel Pearl murdered by bin Laden aide - alleged 9/11 mastermind

NEW YORK (AFP) - US officials investigating the gruesome murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl now believe he was personally slain by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, alleged organiser of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

The Journal reported Tuesday that White House administration officials had developed credible, corroborated information that Mohammed -- believed to be one of Osama bin Laden's closes aides -- was "directly involved" in Pearl's murder.

Pearl was kidnapped on January 23 last year in the Pakistani city of Karachi where he was investigating Islamic militancy.

A scratchy video of Pearl's throat being cut was delivered to the US consulate on February 21. It took until May 2002 to find his remains.

British-born militant Ahmad Saeed Omar Sheikh and three other Islamic militants were convicted in July of plotting the abduction and murder, but they were not present at the slaying and the actual killers have never been caught.

Mohammed was arrested in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi in March this year. He has since been held at an undisclosed location and has been interrogated by CIA personnel.

Mohammed, 38, a Kuwaiti of Pakistani descent, is suspected of being a major financier and organizer for Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

As well as masterminding the September 11 attacks, he is accused of plotting to blow up 12 US airliners in the mid-1990s, and helping to plot the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York.

In January, Time magazine had quoted Pakistani police sources as saying at least one witness saw Mohammed personally kill Pearl.

A suspect in the abduction, Fazal Karim, reportedly told police that Mohammed had drawn the knife across the reporter's throat as he helped hold Pearl.

Investigators have said Pearl's killers were Arabs.

I didn't write that last line. It was in the original, I swear.