A militant linked to the beheading of U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan in 2002, Saif al-Adel, was recently appointed acting leader of Al Qaeda, U.S. investigators said in a report.
Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter, was kidnapped in Karachi in January 2002 while researching a story on Islamist militants and later killed by Khaled Sheikh Mohammad, the planner of the 9/11 terror attacks.
Adal is the nom de guerre of a former Egyptian Army special forces soldier, Mohammad Ibrahim Makkawi, who now leads Al Qaeda from his North Waziristan hide out, according to The International News.
His existence and role in Pearl's death was unearthed in a fresh investigation, conducted by so-called "Pearl Project," set up by academics and students at Georgetown University to investigate the reporter's kidnapping and murder.
The linkage of Adel to Pearl's murder shows the long-standing ties between al Qaeda and Pakistan militancy, according to Reuters. Pearl fell into Al Qaeda's hands after Pakistani militants, the subject of Pearl's research, kidnapped him.
The Pearl Project revealed Adel had discussed Pearl's abduction with Mohammad.
"[Mohammad] told the FBI that he was pulled into the kidnapping by a high-level leader in Al Qaeda circles, an Egyptian named Saif al-Adel, who told him to make the kidnapping an Al Qaeda operation," said the investigators in their report.
Mohammad, who was arrested in Pakistan in 2003 and taken to the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, later admitted he beheaded Pearl. Mohammad told investigators he initially had no idea about the kidnapping.
He also said Al Qaeda's leader, Osama bin Laden, was reportedly angry over Pearl's brutal killing which he thought "brought unnecessary attention on the network," the report said.
According to the report, "The Truth Left Behind: Inside the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl," Adel felt that Pearl represented a propaganda opportunity for Al Qaeda, and may have sought the killing of a "Jewish-American journalist" as a means to raise the profile of the terrorist outfit.