ISLAMABAD — A crackdown on Sunni Muslim militants in Karachi has netted a man wanted in connection with the kidnapping and slaying of American journalist Daniel Pearl, Pakistani authorities say.
Qari Abdul Hayee was arrested Sunday during a raid in Karachi’s University Road area.
Police recently have been combing through Karachi neighborhoods in search of members of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni militant group suspected of being responsible for a series of suicide bombings and other terror attacks on Pakistan’s minority Shiite Muslim community in the southern city of Quetta and Karachi.
Authorities say Hayee once headed up Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s operations in Sindh province, where Karachi is located. He also was being questioned in connection with a car bomb attack in a Shiite neighborhood in Karachi on March 3 that killed more than 45 people and injured at least 146 others.
Pearl, 38, grew up in Los Angeles and was a reporter for the Wall Street Journal when he was kidnapped in January 2002 in Karachi and beheaded by his captors a month later. Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the man who confessed to killing Pearl and the al-Qaida mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S., is in prison.
Also jailed is Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who was sentenced to death in July 2002 in Pakistan for helping lure Pearl to a meeting that led to his kidnapping. Sheikh remains imprisoned in Pakistan.
Pakistani media quoted Karachi authorities as saying they suspected Hayee was one of the militant group’s facilitators involved in Pearl’s abduction. The authorities did not elaborate further.
But a 2011 report by the Center for Public Integrity described Hayee as one of the guards assigned to watch over Pearl as he was being held hostage in Karachi.
According to the report, Hayee “lived in the same Gulshan Iqbal neighborhood of Karachi as many of the other alleged culprits in the Pearl case. Standing only about 4 feet, 11 inches tall, he had a short, thick beard and a noticeable mark on his forehead. Hayee was one of 10 children born to a poor couple in Karachi, and grew up in his family village of Alipur in Punjab (province), where he memorized the Koran at a madrassa,” or Islamic school.