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Britain wants to question Daniel Pearl’s killer

Britain’s MI5 has requested its counterpart in Pakistan to question Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, killer of American journalist Daniel Pearl, in connection with the abortive plot to blow up transatlantic flights bound for the United States.

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LAHORE: Britain’s MI5 has requested its counterpart in Pakistan to question Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, killer of American journalist Daniel Pearl, in connection with the abortive plot to blow up transatlantic flights bound for the United States.

The British intelligence agency wants Omar Sheikh to be questioned because he was the right hand man of Maulana Masood Azhar, founder of the Jaish-e-Mohammad.

Omar Sheikh, who was arrested in February 2002 and sentenced to death in July that year for the murder of the Wall Street Journal reporter, has been shifted from Karachi Central Jail to a more secure colonial-era jail in Hyderabad, Sindh.

Despite repeated requests for his extradition to the US, Islamabad has refused to oblige, fearing that American access to the condemned man could expose the Inter-Services Intelligence.

The ISI is believed to have planned the hijacking of Indian Airlines Flight IC-814 in December 1999 to secure the release of Masood Azhar and Omar Sheikh from Indian custody. Azhar set up the Jaish on his return to Pakistan.

An intelligence source said MI5 wants to know whether any of the 21 British nationals of Pakistani origin arrested in England had ever met Omar Sheikh.

The query has been prompted by the fact that the 7/7 London suicide bombers, who had been influenced by two Britain-based militant groups — Hizbul Tehrir and its splinter group Al Muhajiroon — had visited Pakistan prior to the bombings. On their trip, they are believed to have visited two religious seminaries in Lahore and Faisalabad — the Jamia Manzurul Islamia and the Jamia Raheemia — both run by Jaish.

Rashid Rauf, main accused in the transatlantic flights bombing plot, too was affiliated with the Jaish. He is also related to Masood Azhar by marriage. Rauf was arrested from Bahawalpur near Multan on August 9.

According to the source, one line of inquiry being pursued by the ISI and MI5 centres on the activities in Pakistan of the Hizbul Tehrir and Al Muhajiroon, which played a vital role in indoctrinating youths in England to carry out Al Qaeda’s missions.

The British believe that members of the two banned groups frequent universities in the UK, especially London, to recruit Muslim youths and send them to Pakistan for terrorist training.

Unlike the Jaish and groups striving for the so-called Kashmir cause, the Hizbul Tehrir and Al Muhajiroon are working for a larger anti-Western cause.

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