Pearl plotter linked to assassination attempts

/ Source: The Associated Press

An Islamic militant who helped orchestrate the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl is believed to have played a key role in two failed assassination attempts last year against President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, senior security officials said Friday.

Amjad Hussain Farooqi, a senior leader of the outlawed extremist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, has been missing since Pearl was abducted in the southern city of Karachi in January 2002 during what he thought was a meeting to interview a militant leader. His captors later cut his throat and released a videotape of his death.

On Friday, senior Pakistani security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Farooqi played a central role in two attempts to kill Musharraf last September by blowing up his motorcade, once by exploding a bridge it had just passed over and the second by having suicide bombers drive explosive-laden cars into the vehicles.

The announcements follow an interview with Musharraf broadcast Thursday where the president said that a Pakistani mastermind of the attacks against him remained at large.

Musharraf did not identify the Pakistani mastermind. Other senior officials refused to comment Friday whether Farooqi was the target of a new manhunt or to confirm whether he played a role in the anti-Musharraf plots.

Musharraf claimed that the rest of the network plotting the assassination attempts had been smashed. He said junior army and air force personnel who had been paid for providing information about his movements and other details had been arrested.