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12:19 AM Mon, Sept. 24th

Wall Street Journal reporter is dead, officials say

NEW YORK (AP) — Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was taken hostage a month ago by Islamic extremists in Pakistan, is dead, the State Deparmtent said Thursday.

"Our embassy in Pakistan has confirmed today that they have received evidence that Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl is dead. We have informed Mr. Pearl's family and expressed our sincere condolences."

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher provided no details on the evidence. Two U.S. officials said, however, the FBI had obtained a videotape purportedly showing Pearl being killed, and is evaluating the tape's authenticity. The officials said spoke on condition of anonymity.

The State Department condemned the killing.

"The murder of Mr. Pearl is an outrage and we condemn it. Both the United States and Pakistan are committed to identifying all the perpetrators of this crime and bringing them to justice," Boucher said. "We will continue to work closely with Pakistani authorities, who had made every effort to locate and free Mr. Pearl."

The Wall Street Journal earlier confirmed the newspaper now believed Pearl is dead.

"We now believe, based on reports from the U.S. State Department and police officials of the Pakistani province of Sind, that Danny Pearl was killed by his captors. We are heartbroken at his death," Peter Kann, publisher of the Journal, said in a statement.

"Danny was an outstanding colleague, a great reporter, and a dear friend of many at the Journal," Kann said.

Pearl was abducted in the port city of Karachi on Jan. 23 after arranging to interview the leader of a radical Muslim faction with purported ties to the al-Qaida terrorist network and terror suspect Richard C. Reid, arrested in December on a Paris-Miami flight he allegedly boarded with explosives in his shoes.

"His murder is an act of barbarism that makes a mockery of everything Danny's kidnappers claimed to believe in," Kann said. "They claimed to be Pakistani nationalists, but their actions must surely bring shame to all true Pakistani patriots."

The Journal statement, signed by Kann and Managing Editor Paul Steiger, said, "We will, in coming months, find ways, public and private, to celebrate the great work and good works Danny did. But today is a day to grieve.

"This loss is, of course, most painful for Danny's family, in this country and elsewhere. We ask our colleagues in the press to respect their privacy, and to permit them to grieve undisturbed."

Pearl reported from the United States, Europe and Asia in a 12-year career with the financial daily. Based in Bombay, India, for the past year as the Journal's bureau chief for South Asia, the 38-year-old Pearl was on assignment in Pakistan as part of its coverage of the war on terrorism in neighboring Afghanistan.

The Princeton, N.J., native had worked for newspapers in western Massachusetts and briefly in San Francisco before joining the Journal in Atlanta in 1990. He later reported from Washington, London and Paris — where he wrote about the Middle East — before moving to Asia.

"The Wall Street Journal is a public institution, but the Pearls are private citizens," the Journal statement said. "We hope also that our colleagues, too, will be permitted some time and space to begin the very difficult process of making peace with this profound loss."

Pakistani officials said there were indications that Pearl had been lured into a trap by false information.

In an intensive sweep, Pakistani police seized several suspects, including Ahmad Omar Saeed Sheikh, an Islamic militant who admitted in a court hearing that he had engineered Pearl's abduction to protest Pakistan's alliance with the United States' post-Sept. 11 war on terrorism.

"Our country shouldn't be catering to America's needs," Sheikh said.

According to Pakistani authorities, Sheikh, a British-born key figure in an airplane hijacking and hostage incident in 1999, first told them Pearl was alive but later claimed the reporter had been killed in an escape attempt around Jan. 31.