Wall Street reporter Daniel Pearl displays a newspaper during his captivity… (Associated Press )
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A man arrested in Karachi on suspicion of helping in the 2002 kidnapping of American journalist Daniel Pearl once led the militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi's operations in Sindh province, authorities said.
Authorities believe Qari Abdul Hayee, who was arrested this week in a police raid, was one of the Sunni militant group's facilitators in Pearl's abduction, Pakistani news reports said. Pearl, 38, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal who grew up in Los Angeles, was abducted in January 2002 in Karachi and beheaded by his captors a month later.
Hayee was one of the guards assigned to watch Pearl as he was held hostage, according to a 2011 report by the Center for Public Integrity.
Hayee lived in the Gulshan Iqbal neighborhood of Karachi along with many of the other suspects in the Pearl case, the report says.
"Standing only about 4 feet, 11 inches tall, he had a short, thick beard and a noticeable mark on his forehead," the report said. "Hayee was one of 10 children born to a poor couple in Karachi, and grew up in his family village of Alipur in Punjab [province], where he memorized the Koran at a madrassa," or Islamic school.
Hayee was arrested Sunday by police searching for members of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in Karachi's University Road area. In addition to the Pearl case, he was being questioned about a car bombing March 3 in a Shiite Muslim neighborhood in Karachi that killed more than 45 people and injured at least 146.
Police recently have been combing through Karachi neighborhoods in search of members of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which is suspected of being responsible for a series of suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks on Pakistan's minority Shiite community in Quetta and Karachi.
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the man who confessed to killing Pearl and the self-professed Al Qaeda mastermind behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, is being detained at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, awaiting trial on murder and terrorism charges.
Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who was sentenced to death in July 2002 in Pakistan for helping lure Pearl to a meeting that led to his kidnapping, is in prison in Pakistan.
Pearl's parents, Ruth and Judea Pearl, issued a statement through the Daniel Pearl Foundation.
"We are gratified by this latest arrest and hope that justice will be served on all of those who were involved in this crime against humanity," they said.
Times staff writer Kate Mather in Los Angeles contributed to this report.