Islamabad: Pakistan has arrested a former militant leader in connection with the 2002 murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, security officials said on Monday.

Qari Abdul Hai, once a leader of the outlawed Sunni militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), was arrested on Sunday during a security crackdown in Pakistan's biggest city, Karachi, said the officials.

Pearl, an American, was kidnapped in Karachi while researching a story on Islamist militants in the months after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the al Qaeda militant who claimed responsibility for the September 11 attacks, said he beheaded Pearl after his abduction. It was not clear what role Hai was suspected of playing in the abduction and murder.

The LeJ has emerged as a major security threat in Pakistan. It has claimed responsibility for a series of bombings that killed hundreds of Shi'ites this year.

Security officials said Hai was linked to several attacks on Western targets since Pearl's death. A Pakistani court sentenced British-born militant Omar Sheikh to death for killing Pearl.

Daniel Pearl's family hails Pakistani arrest

The family of slain US journalist welcomed the arrest of Hai.

Ruth and Judea Pearl, who live in the Los Angeles area, hailed the news, in a statement issued through the New York-based Daniel Pearl Foundation.

"We are gratified with this latest arrest and hope that justice will be served in a timely manner on all those who were involved in the abduction and murder of our son, Danny," they said.


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