The Pakistani military recently stopped terrorists’ plot to free a man convicted in connection with the gruesome 2002 beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, a military official said Friday.
The plotters are among 97 suspects, allegedly tied to three terror groups, that the military arrested over the last year and a half in a crackdown against militants, Pakistani Maj. Gen. Asim Bajwa said.
Bajwa said the military discovered a plot to free Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, a British-born Islamist militant also known as Khalid Omar Sheikh and Sheikh Omar.
Sheikh has been held in the southern Pakistani city of Hyderabad after being sentenced in 2002 to death for helping to plan Pearl’s abduction.
Bajwa said that the jailbreak plan involved six would-be suicide bombers and 19 other attackers and that the military confiscated 350 kilograms of explosives.
Confiscated plans, Bajwa said, reveal that the plotters intended to free 100 prisoners, including Sheikh, and kill 35 others.
He didn’t specify when the plot was disrupted, but he said the planning was 90% finished. Further details about the plot weren’t immediately available.
The alleged jailbreak plotters were among 97 people arrested over roughly the past 19 months on suspicion of having connections to the terror groups al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Pakistani Taliban, Bajwa said.
Pearl was kidnapped while researching a story in Karachi about Pakistani militants and “shoe bomber” Richard Reid. Pearl was later decapitated, and a video of his killing was sent to U.S. officials.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – a suspected mastermind of the 9/11 attacks – was arrested in Pakistan in 2003 and has confessed to killing Pearl. Mohammed is held by the United States.
Journalist Nasir Habib contributed to this report.