KARACHI, Pakistan — Pakistani police searching for U.S. reporter Daniel Pearl, apparently kidnapped in Karachi last week, said on Monday they were checking possible links to militant Islamic groups but still had no idea where he was.
A number of Pakistani and U.S. media organizations received an e-mail Sunday saying Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reporter Pearl had been kidnapped by a group calling itself "The National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty."
The e-mail said Pearl, 38, was being kept in "inhumane" conditions to protest U.S. treatment of Taliban and al-Qaida prisoners being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
"We saw that e-mail message and are looking for this group, but it is relatively unknown to us. . . We are looking at every option," a police official told Reuters.
"We cannot rule out the possibility that his kidnapping may be linked to some Islamic militant group," he added.
The e-mail, which accused Pearl of working for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), included four photographs of Pearl, including one with his wrists chained and a pistol pointed at his head.
Police earlier said they thought the e-mail was a hoax, while the WSJ and CIA have said Pearl never worked for the agency.
Brigadier Mukhtar Ahmed, interior secretary for Sindh province, of which Karachi is the capital, said the investigation was "progressing" but declined to give details.
"We will take every thing seriously. We don't leave anything to chance, we have picked up every threat that's come about," he said. "We have had some success."
The U.S. Embassy in the Pakistani capital Islamabad said it did not know anything about the group claiming the kidnap.
"We never heard of the group, we've seen news accounts reporting that law authorities dismissed the email as a hoax, but we can't verify its authenticity," said spokesman Mark Wentworth.
"We remain concerned for his safety. Our consulate in Karachi and embassy in Islamabad continue to coordinate closely with Pakistani authorities to resolve the case," he added.
The United States has been accused by human rights groups and some politicians at home and abroad of treating inhumanely its prisoners from the war in Afghanistan, being held at a U.S. base in Cuba. Washington says the detainees are well treated.
WSJ sister paper the Asian Wall Street Journal on Monday appealed for Pearl's immediate release on humanitarian grounds.
"His continued custody will accomplish nothing except to continue the anguish of his family, including his pregnant wife," the paper said in an editorial.
"Certainly his detention will not inspire sympathy for the causes invoked by his captors," it added.
The police official said authorities in central Punjab and southern Sindh provinces had been investigating possible links to Islamic groups, including some seen as close to banned pro-Kashmiri militant organisations and the shadowy al Qaeda network of fugitive militant Osama bin Laden.
Police in Lahore, capital of populous Punjab province, said on Saturday they had briefly detained and interrogated five men from a radical Sunni Muslim group.
A police official in Lahore said Pearl, who is based in the Indian city of Bombay, had been trying to interview the head of al-Fuqhera, a Sunni Muslim group believed to have close connections with other organisations linked to al Qaeda.