Counter-terrorism officials in Islamabad have confirmed that the remaining terrorist sought in the 2002 murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl has been taken into custody. Azim Jan, a commander of the TTP, the Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan, an offshoot of al-Qaeda, was apprehended on Friday in a joint operation headed by Pakistan Security Forces.
The mission was conducted in the hilly area of Mansehra, a district in the Khyber Pakhtoon Khwa Province, located about 100 miles north of the capital Islamabad.
Azim Jan was the final fugitive of the group that was involved in the abduction and murder of Daniel Pearl. A senior official speaking to The Media Line on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media, said Jan was the master trainer of suicide bombers and that he was running a terrorist training camp in the area of Pakistan-Afghani border when he was arrested.
Daniel Pearl was the South Asian bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal when he was kidnapped and beheaded by a self-proclaimed Islamist group in the southern city of Karachi in 2002. Counter-terrorism official Behram Khan told The Media Line that Jan is known as a deadly expert in improvised explosive devices. In addition to being the primary suspect in the Pearl murder, the “commander” built his reputation orchestrating the planned assassination of then-president General Pervez Musharraf in that year, the murder of Sind police superintendent Chaudhry Aslam, and an attack on the staff of the French Embassy in Karachi.
Jan is also the lead suspect in an attack on the Peshawar Bus Terminal and multiple murders of police officials. Intelligence official Junaid ul-Hassan told The Media Line that Jan is also accused in the 2011 terrorist attack on Pakistan’s Mehran Naval Air Base, and an attack on a security checkpost in Quetta’s Hazar Ganji area that killed more than 150 members of the Hazara Shia community.
Earlier in March, Mansehra police arrested five members of the outlawed TTP. District Police Officer Zabiullah Khan told The Media Line that these terrorists were wanted for attacking an American charity, killing eight staff members of INGO World Vision, including four women, in 2010.
Another official told The Media Line that during the course of interrogation, these terrorists revealed the presence of commander Jan in the area, so the joint operation was conducted.
In 2002, Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl was investigating the alleged financing of al-Qaeda through Pakistani terrorists. He was also trying to find links between Pakistani terrorist groups and Richard Reid, who became known as the “shoe bomber” after allegedly trying to blow up an airplane during a flight by using a bomb hidden his shoe.
On January 23, 2002, on his way to interview a terrorist leader, Pearl was abducted near a Karachi hotel. The National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty claimed responsibility for kidnapping Pearl, but Pakistani security officials believed the kidnappers were actually members of Lashkar e Jhangvi LeJ, an outlawed group associated with al-Qaeda.
Pearl’s captors accused him of being an agent of the Mossad, and said he would be killed within 24 hours unless the group’s demands were met. Included among the demands was the release of Pakistanis being held in the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.
Nine days later, Pearl was murdered and a video of the horrific act was released.
In February 2002, police arrested Ahmed Omer Saeed Sheikh, a British-born Pakistani and a member of various terrorist organizations. He was held along with his three close aides: Salman Saqib, Fahad Naseem, and Sheikh Aadil.
Omer Saeed Sheikh was supposed to be a prime suspect behind assassination of Pearl.
Abdul Mateen Hashmi, a Karachi-based former police officer told The Media Line that some senior intelligence officials had believed that Omer Sheikh trapped Daniel Pearl and promised to arrange an interview with a terrorist leader and later kidnapped him. During the trial, police found a dismembered body believed to be Pearl’s buried in the suburb of Karachi that proved to be the journalist’s remains.
In July 2002, the anti-terrorism court announced that Saeed and his fellows were guilty of Pearl’s kidnapping and murder. Saeed and his three compatriots were charged with Pearl’s kidnapping and murder.
Saeed was sentenced to death by hanging, while Saqib, Naseem, and Adil each received 25-year prison sentences. Their appeal is pending.
When contacted by The Media Line, Daniel Pearl’s father, Prof. Judea Pearl, said, “I welcome any steps toward exposing and bringing to justice those horrendous murderers.”