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Context of 'July 19, 2002: Why Is US Not Interrogating Saeed Sheikh, Indian Newspaper Wonders'

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FBI Director Mueller visits India, and is told by Indian investigators that Saeed Sheikh sent ransom money to hijacker Mohamed Atta in the US. In the next few days, Saeed is publicly blamed for his role with gangster Aftab Ansari in financing Atta and organizing the Calcutta attack (see January 22, 2002). (Press Trust of India 1/22/2002; Watson 1/23/2002; Popham 1/24/2002; France-Presse 1/27/2002; Syal and Hastings 1/27/2002) Meanwhile, on January 23, Saeed helps kidnap reporter Daniel Pearl and is later arrested. Also on January 23, Ansari is placed under surveillance after flying to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. On January 24, Mueller and US Ambassador to Pakistan Wendy Chamberlin discuss Saeed at a previously scheduled meeting with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Apparently Saeed’s role in Pearl’s kidnapping is not yet known. (Yost 2/24/2002) On Mueller’s way back to the US he flies to Dubai to pressure the government there to arrest Ansari and deport him to India. Ansari is arrested on February 5 and deported four days later. (Sharma 2/10/2002; Swami 2/16/2002; India Today 2/25/2002)

Pakistani police publicly name Saeed Sheikh and a Islamic militant group he belongs to, Jaish-e-Mohammed, as those responsible for reporter Daniel Pearl’s murder. (Burke and McCarthy 2/24/2002) In the next several months, at least 12 Western news articles mention Saeed’s links to al-Qaeda (ABC News 2/7/2002; Donnelly 2/7/2002; Yost 2/24/2002; Miller 3/15/2002) , including his financing of 9/11 (Goldiner 2/7/2002; Costello and Wedeman 2/8/2002; Gannon 2/9/2002; McCarthy 2/9/2002; Popham 2/10/2002; Kher 2/10/2002; Miller 2/10/2002; Dovkants 2/12/2002; Mohan and Gettleman 2/13/2002; Miller 2/22/2002; Mackay 2/24/2002; USA Today 3/8/2002) , and at least 16 articles mention his links to the ISI. (Cox News Service 2/21/2002; Burke and McCarthy 2/24/2002; Khan and West 2/24/2002; Newsweek 2/25/2002; Jehl 2/25/2002; Smith 2/25/2002; Cienski 2/26/2002; Boston Globe 2/28/2002; Moreau et al. 3/11/2002; Klaidman 3/13/2002; Ali 4/5/2002; Allen 4/5/2002) However, many other articles fail to mention either link. Only a few articles consider that Saeed could have been connected to both groups at the same time (Hussain and Whitworth 2/25/2002; Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 3/3/2002; Fielding 4/21/2002) , and apparently, only one of these mentions he could be involved in the ISI, al-Qaeda, and financing 9/11. (Fielding 4/21/2002) By the time Saeed is convicted of Pearl’s murder in July 2002, Saeed’s possible connections to al-Qaeda and/or the ISI are virtually unreported in US newspapers, while many British newspapers are still making one or the other connection.

Attorney General Ashcroft announces a second US criminal indictment of Saeed Sheikh, this time for his role in the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl. The amount of background information given about Saeed is very brief, with only scant reference to his involvement with Islamic militant groups after his release from prison in 1999. It only mentions is that he fought in Afghanistan with al-Qaeda in September and October 2001. The indictment and Ashcroft fail to mention Saeed’s financing of the 9/11 attacks, and no reporters ask Ashcroft about this either. (Ressa 3/14/2002; Miller 3/15/2002)

An editorial in an Indian newspaper wonders why the US is still not interrogating Saeed Sheikh, recently convicted of murdering Daniel Pearl. Saeed was briefly interrogated by the FBI in February, but they were unable to ask about his links to al-Qaeda, and no known US contact has taken place since. (Fisk 7/16/2002; Indian Express 7/19/2002) The editorial suggests that if the US pressures its close ally Pakistan to allow Saeed to be interrogated in his Pakistani prison, they could learn more about his financing of the 9/11 attacks and the criminal underworld that Saeed was connected to. Also, US attempts to find al-Qaeda cells in Pakistan could be strongly boosted with new information. (Indian Express 7/19/2002)


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