This Day In History: February 1

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On February 1, 2002, 38-year-old American journalist Daniel Pearl, the Southeast Asia bureau chief of the Wall Street Journal, is murdered by a terror group in Pakistan. Weeks later, a videotape of Pearl’s beheading was released, shocking millions and underscoring the threat of terrorism less than a year after the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

On January 23, 2002, Pearl, who was Jewish, was on his way to what he thought was an interview with a Pakistani religious leader in Karachi as part of his research into Islamist militants. But he was kidnapped near a hotel by terrorists, who claimed he was a spy. The group—which called itself the National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty—demanded the United States free all Pakistani terror detainees.

The terrorists released photos of a handcuffed Pearl with a gun at his head and holding up a newspaper. The group did not respond to public pleas for his release from his family or others.

U.S. intelligence failed to track down the kidnappers of Pearl, whose remains were discovered weeks later in Pakistan. The journalist’s kidnapping and death received widespread media coverage.

In 2002, British national Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh was convicted of Pearl’s murder. (The Pakistani Supreme Court ordered his release in 2021.) In 2007, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed of the al-Qaeda global terror network claimed responsibility for Pearl’s murder. Others have been connected to the journalist’s death, including an Egyptian with ties to al-Qaeda.

Pearl's widow, also a journalist, wrote a book about her husband's life titled A Mighty Heart. In 2007, the movie version of the book was co-produced by Brad Pitt and starred Angelina Jolie.

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