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Fate Of Daniel Pearl Unclear; Conflicting Claims Emerge

Aired February 1, 2002 - 14:31   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We continue to follow the developments in the case of kidnapped "Wall Street Journal" reporter Danny Pearl. Two developments today. One, the group claiming to have kidnapped him sent yet another e-mail, this time claiming to have killed Danny Pearl. Those reports have not been confirmed.

Also, another group calling into a Karachi police department saying they wanted millions of dollars in ransom money.

Want to get the latest on this, so let's go live to Karachi. Our Ben Wedeman is standing by in the city where Daniel Pearl was kidnapped over a week ago. Ben, any confirmation on either one of these reports?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Daryn, in fact there is no confirmation. Both of these reports came in almost simultaneously, just a little while ago. One of them, as you said, came in the form of a phone call. The other, came in the form of this e-mail right here, that I am showing to you. The e-mail was the -- the claim that Mr. Pearl has been killed. The phone call was demanding $2 million ransom within 36 hours, as well as the release of the former Taliban Ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef within 36 hours.

Neither of those can be confirmed. There's a great deal of confusion here on the ground. All the authorities are trying their hardest to try to confirm one way or the other. But what we must stress here, is that even if I got a phone call, on my cell phone, right now, from somebody, making these claims, it is almost impossible, to verify them.

Obviously, the kidnappers are operating in complete secret. They obviously do not want anybody to know where they are, who they are, what their phone number is, hat their e-mail address is. So it's very difficult to confirm either of those. Now we do know that a spokesman for "The Wall Street Journal" has said that, "We have seen the reports, and we remain hopeful that they are not true."

Obviously, that is the feeling of many people, including the CNN crew here in Karachi. We hope this is not true. But, until now it's very, very difficult to confirm either of these claims. Daryn?

KAGAN: Ben, you say you have a copy of e-mail there? I'm just wondering, because the earlier e-mails that were sent...

WEDEMAN: Yes.

KAGAN: ... were pretty long and rambling. Does it say anything else, other than they've killed Daniel Pearl?

WEDEMAN: Well, in fact, it says quite a lot. Now, I -- I'm rather hesitant to read the e-mail, in its entirety, on-air. But it does contain one passage, in addition to the claim that Mr. Pearl has been killed. It says "We are thirsty for the blood of another American." I -- I would hesitate, as I said, to read this...

KAGAN: Okay.

WEDEMAN: ...e-mail on the air. It comes from, according to this, the e-mail address is "antiamericanimperialism@hotmail.com." Now, the prior two e-mails that came from the kidnappers, and those e- mails were confirmed by U.S. administration sources as being authentic. Each one had a different e-mail address. One was "strange people." So I -- I really...

KAGAN: Yeah.

WEDEMAN: It's impossible, at this point, to say whether what the authenticity of this e-mail is. But, obviously, it's very disturbing. Even if anybody would make this sort of claim, if they had nothing to do with it. Obviously, more disturbing if this claim is authentic. But, as I said, there's no way, at this point, to confirm it. Daryn?

KAGAN: In terms of those threats, the -- a previous e-mail did mention that other American journalists would be a targeted and was telling other American journalists to get out of Pakistan. Now it sounds like they're just targeting Americans.

WEDEMAN: Well, it's -- it's hard to say, really. And I don't want to make any assumption on the basis of this last e-mail. Now the first two e-mails did, in fact, make that threat against American journalists. Now, in this case, it just says, "another American." So we don't want to go too far with this e-mail, simply because, we don't know if it's a hoax or genuine. I hope it's a hoax. Daryn?

KAGAN: Certainly, those feelings are echoed here as well. Let's move past the e-mail on to these claims -- the call for ransom. Did that go into Karachi police?

WEDEMAN: Well, the Karachi police here are confirming that the U.S. Consulate in Karachi has received that phone call. The U.S. Consulate, for its part, has not confirmed that. So that's rather a secondhand confirmation, and one I wouldn't go too far with. But, clearly it's something they're taking very seriously. The Karachi police have been in constant and close touch with the U.S. authorities.

It's worth mentioning that, in Karachi, we have heard from Pakistani police forces, there are FBI officers in town, taking part in the investigation. So obviously, they very busy at this moment, trying to ascertain the veracity of either of these claims. KAGAN: Ben, a little bit earlier, before you were with us, we were able to play part of the interview you did with Danny Pearl's wife, Marianne, from a couple of days ago. Have you had a chance to talk with her or any family member since then?

WEDEMAN: No, we haven't. We did try to contact them. Someone answered at their residence, but, it sounded from -- from just the background noise that they're very distracted, with far more important things than our questions.

KAGAN: Understandable.

WEDEMAN: Daryn.

KAGAN: Ben Wedeman, thank you. That interview held up very well by the well, by the way, and it was fascinating and disturbing at the same time, to hear from Danny Pearl's wife, six months pregnant with their child. Ben Wedeman in Karachi, thank you very much.

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