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U.S. officials say 9/11 mastermind killed Pearl

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed after he was captured in March.
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed after he was captured in March.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. officials say they believe Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks, killed Daniel Pearl, The Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped and slain in Pakistan.

Pearl, 38, the newspaper's South Asia bureau chief, was taken hostage in January 2002 and killed. A videotape of the killing was distributed, but the face of the person who slit Pearl's throat cannot be seen.

U.S. officials declined to say why they are convinced that Mohammed killed Pearl. But they point to testimony in the September 2002 trial of some in Pakistan accused of involvement in the case that indicated Mohammed did the killing.

A U.S. official said Mohammed, a prisoner of the CIA at an undisclosed location, will not be tried in the killing "anytime real soon" but could not rule out the possibility at some time in the future. He was captured in March in Pakistan.

Washington has tied Mohammed, a chief lieutenant of Osama bin Laden's, to a string of terrorist attacks around the world, including a Philippines-based plot to blow up 12 U.S.-bound commercial airliners in 1996 and last year's Bali bombings that killed more than 200 people.

Even before the grisly tape confirmed Pearl's death, Pakistani authorities captured four men it said were behind the kidnapping -- but none of those were believed responsible for slitting the reporter's throat.

Three other men -- who police said have provided much detail of the kidnapping and killing -- are reportedly being unofficially held by Pakistani authorities.

Daniel Pearl was taken hostage in January 2002.
Daniel Pearl was taken hostage in January 2002.

Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, a London-born Islamic militant who was convicted in 1994 of luring four Westerners into a kidnapping in India, was convicted of masterminding Pearl's abduction and sentenced to death. Three Pakistanis -- Fahad Naseem, Salman Saqib and Sheikh Mohammed Adeel -- also have been convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Pearl was kidnapped in Karachi, Pakistan, while en route to an interview. He was researching links between Pakistani Islamic extremists and Richard C. Reid, who later pleaded guilty to trying to blow up an airliner with explosives in his shoes.

The videotape of the reporter's killing was sent to the U.S. Consulate in Karachi in February 2002, confirming his death. Pakistani authorities found the reporter's body buried on the outskirts of Karachi in May 2002, and DNA tests confirmed the remains were Pearl's.

CNN National Security Correspondent David Ensor contributed to this report.


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