False alarm over US reporter

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The Independent US

The American State Department said last night a body found on the streets of Karachi was not that of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter kidnapped 10 days ago, contradicting earlier statements issued by the Pakistani police.

Anxiety over Mr Pearl, 38, the newspaper's South-east Asia bureau chief, peaked suddenly when word came from police in Karachi late yesterday that his body had been found on a street with a bullet wound through the head. But, just as friends and supporters of the journalist were assuming that their worst fears were coming true, America said otherwise. A spokesman in Washington said a State Department security officer acquainted with the correspondent had viewed the man found on the street and "determined that the body is not that of Daniel Pearl".

Pakistani officials said some of the e-mails sent to Western media organisations in recent days offering contradictory information on the welfare of Mr Pearl had been hoaxes, including one that asked for a $2m (£1.4m) release ransom. Another said he had been executed and his body had been put in a Karachi cemetery.

Pakistani investigators consider Islamic extremists, especially Harkat ul-Mujahedeen, as the most likely suspects in the abduction.

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