A CALLER claiming to represent the kidnappers of Daniel Pearl, the American journalist, telephoned the US consulate in Karachi yesterday, demanding $2m (pounds 1.4m) and the release of the former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan. Officials said police believe the call may be genuine.
As a second deadline given by the kidnappers expired, CNN said it had received an e-mail from those claiming to hold the Wall Street Journal reporter, saying he had been killed. Steve Goldstein, a spokesman for Dow Jones, which owns the Journal, said: "We have seen the latest reports and we remain hopeful they are not true."
Mr Pearl disappeared in Karachi more than a week ago while working on a report about Islamic militants.
President George Bush said earlier in the Oval Office: "We are working with Pakistan to chase down any leads possible. For example, trying to follow the trail of the e-mails that have been sent ... We have some leads. The e-mails could provide leads."
Pakistani police are also intrigued by the e-mails, the one feature of the case that makes it stand out from the typical and all- too-routine kidnappings. Most kidnappings in the country are committed by criminals motivated by greed. None has used sophisticated communications or shown other signs of education. All contact from Mr Pearl's abductors came as e-mails from a Hotmail account in the name of "kidnapperguy".
Someone in the kidnappers' cell knows not only how to write and send e-mails, but also how to open a Hotmail account: not difficult but something that requires a modicum of …