Randall Bennett, the US security officer who investigated the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, has given a clean chit to Al-Fuqra leader Sheikh Gilani while elaborating how the journalist was abducted and then murdered in 2002.
In an interview to the US State Department, Bennett said that Sheikh Omar, who has been sentenced to death for murdering the US journalist, used Gilani's name without bringing it to the knowledge of the latter.
"Sheikh Omar, who has quite a history involved in the kidnapping- the hijacking of airplanes out of India and affiliations with various hardcore jihadi organisations - had very carefully plotted and planned this kidnapping of Danny," said Bennett, who was the US Regional Security Officer in Karachi during the time Pearl was kidnapped and later murdered in 2002.
"He had set it up where he had given Danny information and promised this interview with Sheikh Gilani. Sheikh Gilani, as it turned out, had no idea his name was even being used," he added.
Bennett said in the interview, which coincided with the release of a film "A Mighty Heart," which depicts the kidnapping and murder of Pearl, that Sheikh Omar used Gilani's name to bait the WSJ reporter, who had been looking forward to this interview because it was a very "hot item," the Dawn reported.
Bennett was quoted as saying that Richard Reed, the so-called shoe-bomber, who tried to bomb a Chicago-bound plane in 2002 with explosives hidden in his shoes, dominated the US media in those days and Pearl hoped to get some exclusive information about the bomber from this interview.
"So, when it came time, after two weeks of baiting and switching, Danny was at the Metropol Hotel standing outside the Village restaurant. His meeting was at 1900 hours, 7:00 pm. At 1911, he received a phone call. The phone call lasted till 1916.
"So in those five minutes, the investigation later revealed that Sheikh Omar, who was using the name of Bashir at this time, told Danny that 'I'm sorry, he cannot come to see you again.' This was maybe the sixth or seventh time they had baited and switched Danny on a meeting.
"They said, 'He just cannot get away and we've tried and tried and it just hasn't worked out. If you want the interview, he's at the madrassa. We'll pick you up and bring you here and then we'll take you back, but he's not going to be able to come and see you there,'" Bennett said.
Later, Pearl decided to go to the madrassa despite warnings from security personnel.
Bennett said he had explained to Pearl that all madrassas were essentially in dangerous locations. They typically had affiliations to the more radical elements. And, for Pearl to go to one of those meant he would be completely cut off from his communication and any safe haven or recourse.
"And I guess at that moment, Danny had a tough decision to make and he made the decision that he was going to go and do the interview," he said, adding that the journalist was abducted thereafter.
He said Pearl could not be recovered because they learned about his abduction after 12 hours, which gave the kidnappers the time to take him out of the city.