Washington: Khalid Sheik Mohammed, a top al Qaeda leader and 9/11 attack mastermind, killed US journalist Daniel Pearl and even re-staged the killing by decapitating his victim so that it could be filmed for propaganda, a new report says.
Sheik Mohammed, who is being held at the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, said at a military hearing in 2007 that he killed Pearl, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.
According to the new report, prepared by faculty members and students at Georgetown University, US officials have concluded that vascular technology, or vein matching, shows that the hand of the unseen man who killed the Wall Street Journal reporter on video is that of Sheik Mohammed.
Pearl was kidnapped on January 23, 2002, while investigating alleged connections between a radical Pakistani cleric and Richard Reid, who had attempted to detonate a bomb hidden in his shoe on a transatlantic flight in December 2001.
Pearl was duped into thinking that he was heading to an interview with the cleric when he was seized by a group of militants organised by Omar Sheik, a British-educated Pakistani, who is in prison for Pearl`s kidnapping and murder with three of his accomplices.
The report concludes that while Omar Sheik set the kidnapping in motion, the group was uncertain about its ultimate goals and, at one point, appeared to consider releasing Pearl.
The Washington Post quotes the report as saying that Saif al-Adel, an Egyptian and an al Qaeda figure, got in touch with Sheik Mohammed and offered him custody of Pearl.
Adel "thought this was an opportunity. We can take advantage of it. He said he wanted to make sure it`s an al Qaeda thing", Sheik Mohammed told FBI.
The report says Sheik Mohammed and two others arrived at the compound on the outskirts of Karachi, where Pearl was being held.
According to the report, US and Pakistani officials think the accomplices were Sheik Mohammed`s nephews, including Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, who is also being held at Guantanamo Bay.
Sheik Mohammed slashed Pearl`s throat, killing him, but one of his accomplices failed to operate the video camera, which they had brought to capture the murder for propaganda purposes.
Sheik Mohammed re-staged the killing, this time decapitating Pearl, according to the report. He then dismembered Pearl`s body, and it was buried on the compound.
Guards washed the bloody floor and then prayed, foreheads to the ground, on the same surface where their prisoner had just been killed, the report said.
The report said that 27 men, including guards and drivers, played a part in the kidnapping and murder, and that 14 remain free in Pakistan.
Mohammed told the FBI that he wanted to exploit the murder for propaganda.
But the report also quoted a former chief military prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay as saying that "one of the high value detainees told interrogators that Osama bin Laden was angry that (Sheik Mohammed) had slaughtered Pearl so publicly and brutally, arguing that the murder brought unnecessary attention on the network".