Pearl Murder Case Briton Was a Double Agent

by Nick Fielding
The Sunday Times
April 21, 2002,,2086,00.html

Omar Shiekh, the former British public-school boy on trial in Pakistan for the kidnap and murder of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, may have been an agent for both Pakistani intelligence and Osama Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda organisation.

A Sunday Times investigation into Sheikh’s slide from privilege to religious zealotry and terrorism found evidence that he was sheltered and supported for several years by the Pakistani authorities.

Documents also show that Sheikh was close to the radical Pakistani cleric Maulana Masood Azhar — a close associate of Bin Laden’s.

Sheikh, who faces the death penalty if convicted over Pearl’s kidnap and murder, is no newcomer to terrorism.

He denies the charges now made against him but admits he was involved in a string of outrages including kidnappings dating back to 1994 and the attack on the Indian parliament last December that almost led to India and Pakistan going to war.

“Sheikh is a vital key that can open the doors to the Al-Qaeda network (and) to the links between the Pakistani military intelligence establishment and the terror groups,” said MJ Gohel of the Asia Pacific Foundation, a group that has been investigating Pearl’s murder.

Witnesses say Sheikh led Pearl to a car after arranging to meet the journalist in Pakistan’s southern port, Karachi, in January.

Three of Sheikh’s co-accused admit that he passed them photos of the kidnapped journalist, plus a series of demands to be fed to the media, including better treatment for Al-Qaeda terrorists in Camp X-Ray in Cuba.

It is thought unlikely Sheikh was present when Pearl was filmed having his throat cut, but the Pakistani authorities are sure he instigated the outrage.

It remains unclear whether the kidnapping was Sheikh’s idea or whether he was acting for a higher terrorist authority. But what is clear is that he had close connections to Azhar, who in turn has been linked to Bin Laden.

Sheikh was first introduced to Azhar nine years ago in a training camp for Islamic guerrillas in Afghanistan. The two spent five years in prison in India together for terrorist activities.

The cleric was even introduced to Sheikh’s father while on a visit to Britain in 1994. His group Harakat ul-Ansar was not then illegal in Britain, although it has since been proscribed.

Azhar now leads the radical Jaish-e-Mohammed organisation and is under house arrest in Pakistan. He is close to Bin Laden, and visited Somalia in 1993 on behalf of Al-Qaeda in order to convince different factions to patch up their differences. Within weeks US forces in the country came under attack and suffered casualties.

Sheikh’s father Saeed, who runs a clothing business in east London, is in Pakistan for his son’s trial and has refused to condemn his actions. “He will be acquitted,” he said last week.


Copyright 2002 Times Newspapers Ltd.

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