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Boxing legend Ali asks for reporter's release

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali appealed Wednesday for the release of a Wall Street Journal reporter kidnapped in Pakistan, urging his abductors to show "compassion and kindness" by releasing Daniel Pearl safely to his family.

Ali, a longtime Muslim, urged the kidnappers to treat Pearl as they would want all Muslims to be treated.

"I have not lost [Allah's] hope in us to show compassion where none exists and to extend mercy in the most difficult of circumstances. We as Muslims must lead by example," Ali said in a statement.

"Daniel should not become another victim of the ongoing conflict. I appeal to you to show Daniel Pearl compassion and kindness," he said. "Give hope and belief that Allah will guide us through these difficult times."

Ali, 60, suffers from Parkinson's disease and rarely makes public statements. But he has appeared at several events since the September 11 terrorist attacks, including the star-studded "America: A Tribute to Heroes" fund-raising broadcast and a visit to Ground Zero in September.

Pearl, 38, was abducted last week while on his way to interview the head of the fundamentalist Islamic Jamaat ul-Fuqra group in Karachi.

His kidnappers, who call themselves "The National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty," have threatened to kill Pearl if their demands are not met. They have called for the release of all Pakistanis held by the United States as a result of the war on terrorism.


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