Daniel Pearl was a Jewish American journalist for the Wall Street Journal who was kidnapped and killed by Islamic terrorists in Pakistan soon after 9/11.
Pearl (born October 10, 1963; died February 1, 2002) was born in New Jersey and grew up with his family in California. He attended Stanford University from 1981 to 1985 where he eventually graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a bachelor of arts in communciations. He began his journalism career as an intern with the Indianapolis Star and eventually joined a few small papers in Massachusetts before taking a job with the San Francisco Business Times.
Hired by the Wall Street Journal's Atlanta bureau in 1990, Pearl would spend the rest of his career with the major international paper. In 1993 he moved to their Washington, DC office and in 1996 he was transferred to London. In October 2000, Pearl became the Journal's South Asia bureau chief and he moved with his wife to India where he reported on the global war on terrorism and also took repeated trips into Pakistan in an effort to retrace the steps of "shoe bomber" Richard Reid.
On January 23, 2002, while on his way to what he thought was an interview with Sheik Gilani, a Muslim spiritual leader in Pakistan, Pearl was kidnapped in Karachi by terrorists from a group calling itself The National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty. Claiming Pearl was an American spy, the terrorists demanded that the United States free all of their Pakistani terror detainees and release their halted shipment of fighter planes to the Pakistani government.
An email sent by the terrorists read: "We give you one more day if America will not meet our demands we will kill Daniel. Then this cycle will continue and no American journalist could enter Pakistan."
The U.S. did not capitulate to the demands. Though it was not known at the time, Pearl was tortured and beheaded by his captors on February 1, 2002, nine days after they had sent their email, and his body was cut into ten pieces and buried north of Karachi. On May 16, 2002, Pakistani forces uncovered the remains which were checked and then returned to the United States for proper burial.
Pearl's fate from February 1 was only known three weeks after the fact when the terrorists released a gruesomely horrific video tape, entitled The Slaughter of the Spy-Journalist, the Jew Daniel Pearl, that showed the final few minutes of Pearl's life.
In the video Pearl is clearly made to read a statement prepared by the terrorists, but depsite his situation he never disavowed his nation or his Jewish faith. One part of the video is transcribed as follows:
"My name is Daniel Pearl. I am a Jewish American from Encino, California USA. I come from, uh, on my father's side the family is Zionist. My father's Jewish, my mother's Jewish, I'm Jewish. My family follows Judaism. We've made numerous family visits to Israel. Back in the town of Bnei Brak there is a street named after my great grandfather Chaim Pearl who is one of the founders of the town."
Two days before his abduction, Pearl had learned that his wife was pregnant, and in May of 2002 their son, Adam, was born in France.
In the wake of the murder, the United States and Pakistan vowed to investigate the murder and bring to justice those responsible. Less than a month later, Pakistani forced captured three suspects and the supposed mastermind of the plot, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh. In March of that year all four were charged with murder and sentenced to death, though many appeals have been filed and no date has yet been set.
In 2007, before a military review at Guantanamo Bay prison, Al-Qaeda operative Khalid Sheik Mohammed claimed responsibility for Pearl's murder, testifying that he was the one who actually killed the journalist. In a confession read during his hearing, Mohammed said "I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew Daniel Pearl, in the city of Karachi, Pakistan."
Pearl's legacy has lived on through a number of books published in his honor in addition to the Daniel Pearl Foundation, set up to continue his mission in integrity and objective journalism. The Foundation has an honorary board that includes Bill Clinton, Elie Wiesel and Queen Noor of Jordan.