Details on main suspect in Pearl kidnappinggreenspun.com : LUSENET : Current News - Homefront Preparations : One Thread
Suspect's journey from British prep schools to Islamic fundamentalist movement
By Kathy Gannon, Associated Press, 2/6/2002 17:55
KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) The leading suspect in the kidnapping of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl is a 27-year-old Briton, educated in the country's expensive private schools and described by his one-time tutor as ''a nice bloke.''
But Ahmad Omar Saeed Sheikh, also known as Sheik Omar Saeed, went on from his placid upbringing to a shadowy life of jail and reputed connections to Islamic militant groups.
Saeed was arrested in India in 1994 in connection with the kidnapping of three British backpackers in Kashmir to demand the release of Islamic militants fighting to end Indian rule in the contested Himalayan region.
Saeed was shot and wounded by police and the hostages were freed unharmed.
He spent the next five years in jail although never brought to trial and was freed after gunmen hijacked an Indian Airlines jet to Kandahar, Afghanistan, and demanded the release of Saeed and other figures.
Saeed, a first-generation Briton, is the son of a Pakistani-born clothing merchant who lives in a London suburb and attended expensive private schools where classmates and teachers regarded him as a devoted student.
He has been described by fellow classmates and teachers as a powerfully built young man, a disciplined student and a person with a sense of humor that allowed him to laugh at himself.
On summer break from university at age 20, Saeed went to Bosnia to work with a charity. British press reports say he is believed to have developed ties there to militant Islamic groups that recruited him to fight for the secession of the Indian-ruled portion of Kashmir, the only predominantly Muslim part of India.
Saeed is believed to have links to Jaish-e-Mohammed, a radical group banned last month by Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf. The group's founder, Maulana Masood Azhar, was freed as a result of the same hijacking that got Saeed out of Indian jail.
After his arrest in 1994 his parents said he was being tortured in India and protested his innocence. They told their local newspaper, the Wanstead and Woodford Guardian, that their son was being wrongly portrayed by India.
George Paynter, who was Saeed's economics tutor at Forest School in Snaresbrook, East London, said on Wednesday: ''I'm horrified. The chap we knew was a good all round, solid and very supportive pupil.
''It is very difficult for us to understand because it isn't the Omar we knew,'' Paynter said. ''He was a nice bloke and very respectful.''
Although a devoted student who regularly received high grades, he scored only a ''D'' in Religious Studies at the school.
-- Anonymous, February 07, 2002