Security forces on Sunday killed a Pakistani fugitive accused of organizing the kidnapping and killing of Daniel Pearl, an American journalist, in 2002 and carrying out two unsuccessful attempts on the life of Pakistan's president late last year, according to senior police and military officials.
Officials said Amjad Hussain Farooqi, described as Pakistan's most wanted fugitive and an associate of the al Qaeda network, died during a two-hour gun battle in Nawabshah, a town in the southern province of Sindh. Two other men were arrested in the raid, which was carried out by a special military team formed in March to track down Farooqi after officials determined he was behind the attempts to kill Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president, in December.
Pakistani intelligence officials said Farooqi was the leader of a band of Pakistani Islamic militants who worked closely with Abu Faraj Libbi, a Libyan-born al Qaeda lieutenant closely linked to Ayman Zawahri, Osama bin Laden's closest aide. "Abu Faraj arranged money for Amjad Farooqi as he made plans to kill the president," said Interior Minister Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao.
Sherpao said his government "can say with full confidence that Farooqi was the chief al Qaeda contact in Pakistan."
A member of Lashkar-i-Jangvi, a violent Sunni Muslim organization responsible for numerous attacks on Pakistani Shiites, Farooqi was one of the hijackers who commandeered an Indian Airlines plane in December 1999 and ordered it flown to Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. The hijacking ended after the plane's passengers and crew were swapped for four men held in Indian prisons. One of the four, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, was sentenced in July 2002 to death by hanging for the kidnapping and murder of Pearl, a reporter with the Wall Street Journal.
Pakistani investigators recently said Farooqi helped force Pearl into a vehicle when he was kidnapped in Karachi on the night of Jan. 23, 2002, and was present when Pearl was beheaded.
"The gruesome murder of Pearl and its video filming for the world was the work of Amjad Farooqi [and] Khalid Sheik Mohammed," said a senior Pakistani intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity. Mohammed, the former al Qaeda operations chief who is believed to have been the organizer of Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, has been described by U.S. authorities as the person who decapitated Pearl. Mohammed was apprehended in Pakistan in March 2003 and is now in U.S. custody.
Investigators also said Farooqi recruited more than a dozen low-ranking Pakistani air force technicians who attempted to assassinate Musharraf on Dec. 14 with plastic explosives that Farooqi supplied. Farooqi orchestrated a second attempt against Musharraf on Dec. 25, officials said, in which two suicide bombers tried to ram the general's armored limousine. They missed their target but killed 16 people.
Senior Pakistani military and police officials said Sunday that Farooqi had eluded them three times in recent weeks, perhaps by minutes, in raids conducted in three Pakistani cities.
"To get him at all costs was the number one priority of all our law enforcing agencies," said Maj. Gen. Javed Zia, commandant of the Sindh Rangers.
Residents of the Ghulam Hyder colony in Nawabshah said that about six weeks ago, a religious family had rented the house where Farooqi was slain. They said they had not seen any unusual activity there.
"They kept a low profile to a point that they would always make it a point to avoid eye contact," said Anwar Sheikh, a neighbor. "We were stunned to see the same people responding so resolutely to police fire this morning."