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Pakistani Police Charge Three in Pearl Kidnapping

Police identified one of the men as Farhad Naseem, but did not name the other two, according to the Associated Press. The three have been detained since earlier this week.

Officials say they found threatening e-mails containing photos of a captured Pearl on Naseem’s laptop computer. They allege the three men sent those messages, containing demands for the release of U.S.-held Pakistani detainees and threats against Pearl’s life, to U.S. and Pakistani news organizations last week.

Police reportedly traced the e-mails to an Internet service provider in Karachi. Naeem Ahmad, the company’s owner, said Naseem denied sending the e-mails, but that his records indicated otherwise. Naseem had erased the files, but failed to clean his hard drive, the AP reports.

The main suspect in the kidnapping case, Ahmad Omar Saeed Sheikh, however, is still at large.

According to police, the three men say Saeed, also known as Sheikh Omar, ordered them to send the e-mails.

Police say Saeed, a British-born Muslim militant, is linked to Jaish-e-Mohammed, an extremist group opposing Indian rule in the disputed province of Kashmir that is also allegedly tied to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida terrorist network.

Saeed was arrested in India in 1994 for allegedly kidnapping U.S. and British tourists. He was released in 1999 in exchange for 155 captives aboard a hijacked Indian airliner.

Police this week raided the homes of several of Saeed’s relatives in search of information on his whereabouts.

The three men in custody will appear before a judge, but officials have not said when that hearing will take place.

Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who is scheduled to meet with President Bush in Washington next week, said he was “extremely hopeful” Pearl would be released.

“We are getting near,” Musharraf said at a joint press conference with visiting Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai. “We’ve got some key personalities and I very much hope that we get to him and we get him freed soon.”

Pearl, the Wall Street Journal’s Bombay-based South Asia bureau chief, was investigating alleged ties between Pakistani militant groups and Richard Reid, the man U.S. officials say tried to blow up an American airliner with explosives contained in his shoes. He had been trying to set up meetings with militant contacts when he vanished.