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Pakistan to interrogate man over Pearl's death

Pakistani police have arrested an Islamic militant convicted of organizing a suicide bomb attack that killed 14 people, including 11 French engineers, in Karachi three years ago, a police official said on Wednesday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A convicted Islamic militant was turned over Thursday by a court to police for questioning into the killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and two failed assassination attempts against President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, authorities said.

Mohammed Sohail was arrested in Karachi on Wednesday after a shootout with police.

Sohail was wanted in the killing of Pearl, who was kidnapped Jan. 23, 2002, in Karachi while researching a story on Islamic militancy.

A police official said on condition of anonymity Wednesday that Sohail is believed to have made the grisly video in which the American journalist was beheaded.

In 2003, a court in Karachi sentenced Sohail to death in absentia for a May 8, 2002, bombing near the Sheraton Hotel in Karachi that killed 11 French engineers. Two other militants, who are in custody, were also given death sentences in the attack.

On Thursday, the judge in Karachi allowed police to interrogate Sohail for five days, said Mohammed Younas, a police investigator.

Judge Mehboob Ali Dhayo ordered that the militant be produced in the court again on March 7, Younas said.

Sohail, in his 30s, was taken to the court with dozens of armed policemen escorting him. He was handcuffed and his head was covered with a hood when he was transferred to a police pickup truck after the court hearing.

Attempts on Musharraf's life
Younas said Sohail also will be questioned over suspicions he had surveyed the street in Rawalpindi, a city near the capital, Islamabad, where militants targeted Musharraf with two car bombs within 10 days in December 2003.

The president was not harmed in either attack but 17 people were killed in the second attempt on his life.

Sohail is believed to have been a close aide of Amjad Hussain Farooqi, one of al-Qaida’s reputed point men in Pakistan.

Farooqi, who was killed in a shootout with police in September in the southern city of Nawabshah, is believed to have masterminded the attacks along with a Libyan al-Qaida operative, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, a fugitive being sought by Pakistani authorities.

Sohail, was among six people who fired on police from a motorcycle during a confrontation with authorities Wednesday. The shootout began when the men were asked to stop at a routine police checkpoint. The five others fled, but Sohail fell off a motorcycle and was captured.

Separately, intelligence agents arrested six men in connection with bomb explosions in southern Sindh province of which Karachi is the capital, Sindh police chief Asad Jehangir Khan said Thursday.

The suspects — wanted for a series of attacks in recent months — were arrested in separate raids Wednesday night across Karachi and 132 pounds of bombing making material, four grenades, four pistols and a rifle were seized, Khan said.