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U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl is dead, officials confirm

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, kidnapped last month on his way to interview a Muslim fundamentalist leader in Pakistan, has been killed by his abductors, officials said Thursday. The U.S. government condemned his killing as "an outrage" and his newspaper called it an "act of barbarism."

FBI and Pakistani officials said they received a videotape containing "indisputable" confirmation that the 38-year-old Pearl had been killed.

A spokesman for the Home Government Department of the province of Sindh said authorities received the tape around 11 p.m. local time (1 p.m. EST) and it "contained scenes showing Mr. Daniel Pearl in captivity and scenes of his murder by the kidnappers."

It's not clear exactly when he may have been killed. The tape was apparently sent to the Sindh Home Government Department, and Pakistan officials delivered it to the U.S. consulate in Karachi, where it was viewed by FBI officials. Earlier, a U.S. official told CNN that two Pakistani men approached a Pakistani journalist with the tape, and a U.S. law enforcement agent acquired it.

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Pearl's January 23 abduction prompted appeals from top U.S. and Pakistani officials for his release, and resulted in the arrests of several people believed to have been involved in the kidnapping -- including the man Pakistani officials identified as the ringleader, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh.

"We now believe, based on reports from the U.S. State Department and police officials of the Pakistani province of Sindh, that Danny Pearl was killed by his captors. We are heartbroken at his death," said Paul Steiger, managing editor of The Wall Street Journal. (Full statement)

"Danny was an outstanding colleague, a great reporter, and a dear friend of many at the Journal. His murder is an act of barbarism that makes a mockery of everything Danny's kidnappers claimed to believe in," Steiger said.

Pearl's wife, Mariane, is pregnant with their first child. Pearl's parents, Judea and Ruth, issued a statement on behalf of the family, calling him "a beloved son, a brother, an uncle, a husband and a father to a child who will never know him." (Full statement)

"We were shocked and saddened at the confirmation that our worst fears have been realized. Up until a few hours ago we were confident that Danny would return safely, for we believed no human being would be capable of harming such a gentle soul," the parents said. "Danny's senseless murder lies beyond our comprehension."

President Bush said such "barbaric acts" only deepen his resolve in the fight against terrorism.

"The United States of America will rid the world of these agents of terror," Bush said in brief comments to reporters early Friday in Beijing, China, the last stop in a tour of Asia. "All Americans are saddened by this tragic murder."

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States and Pakistan "are committed to identifying all the perpetrators in this crime and bringing them to justice."

Pakistan's leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, expressed his profound grief at the news of Pearl's murder and directed the Sindh provincial government and national security agencies to apprehend each and every member of the gang of terrorists responsible for the murder. (Full statement)

Pearl is the 10th reporter to die while involved in coverage of the war against terrorism, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

He was lured from his Karachi apartment following a tip from a source regarding his research on a story about possible ties between accused "shoe bomber" Richard Reid and a Pakistani militant. He was on his way to what he believed was an interview with Sheikh Mubarik ali Gilani, the head of the fundamentalist Islamic Jamaat ul-Fuqra group.

His kidnappers had initially demanded the release of Pakistani detainees at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, compound where captured al Qaeda and Taliban fighters are being held. The kidnappers accused Pearl of being a spy -- first for the CIA, and then for Israel -- accusations that were strongly denied by the government and his newspaper. The kidnappers vowed to kill Pearl if their demands were not met.

In a Pakistani courtroom earlier Thursday, an Islamic militant charged in the kidnapping, Fahad Naseem, told a judge that the journalist was seized because he was "anti-Islam and a Jew." Naseem, who said he knew of plans of the abduction two days in advance, confessed to having sent e-mails about Pearl's abduction and disclosed the roles of others in custody and some still at large, authorities said.

Saeed Sheikh last week appeared in court himself, admitted his role in the kidnapping and told the judge it was his understanding that Pearl was dead.

Pearl's career took him around world

Pearl, a native of Princeton, New Jersey, started his career in journalism 14 years ago at the Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. He quickly became a rising star, joining the Wall Street Journal in 1990.

Over the next decade, he would see the world. He was first headquartered in Atlanta, then Washington, London and Paris, where he met his wife.

"We are two people who met and fell in love because we have the same ideal. And all my life and all his life and our life together is just a big effort to try to create a dialogue between civilizations," Mariane Pearl told CNN in a recent interview .

His newspaper's headquarters near New York's World Trade Center was destroyed in the September 11 terrorist attacks. His editor, Steiger, was in Washington on Thursday to receive an award for leading the newspaper's coverage of the attack and for not missing a day of publication.

Pearl's death came as a shock to his journalism peers.

"It's senseless terror. It doesn't intimidate anybody. It doesn't relax anybody's resolve. It's just a personal tragedy," said Robert Novak, a CNN commentator and newspaper columnist with the Chicago Sun-Times.

Todd Mack, a friend who met Pearl 10 years ago in Atlanta where the two were in a band together, said he last played music with Pearl on his wedding day. He described Pearl as the "textbook definition of the term 'good friend.' He would do anything for you."

"Anyone who knew Danny knew this and knew the kind, gentle spirit he possessed. The world lost a good one today, and I am deeply saddened by it," Mack told CNN.




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