Sheik Denies Involvement In Kidnap

Man Daniel Pearl Reportedly Wanted To Interview Talks To <b>CBS News</b>

Daniel Pearl was reportedly heading to an interview with Sheik Mubarik Ali Gilani when he disappeared. Although various news reports say Gilani and Khalid Khawaja, an associate of Gilani and Osama bin Laden, are either in jail or can't be found, Gilani Thursday told 60 Minutes II producer George Crile he has no link to the Pearl kidnapping.

"The only thing he says he knows is that Pearl was trying to see him and as is his custom he did not talk to the press," said Crile, speaking from one of Gilani's hideaways in Pakistan. "He says the only thing he did was say he didn't want to meet with him."

Gilani heads a group he calls Quaranic Open University, but which the State Department calls Al Fuqra and labels a terrorist organization.

Gilani says he is a spiritual leader to thousands of American followers.

"I went with a message 20 years ago to America to reform American Muslims, who have been living the life of waywardness and even crime — street gangs — so I gave them a new dictum to follow correct Islam," he told CBS News.

When Crile interviewed Gilani, he had been released recently from detention in Karachi by the authorities. "I was taken to him by one of bin Laden's closest friends, a former intelligence officer from Pakistan," Crile said.

Khawaja told the Boston Globe he thinks the two men who told Pearl they could arrange an interview with Gilani were lying about their ties to the sheik in order to kidnap the Wall Street Journal reporter.

The 38-year-old Pearl disappeared Jan. 23 in Karachi while investigating a story on Islamic militants. A British-born Muslim militant has admitted to kidnapping him, and said he believed the reporter is dead, but officials are dismissing the claim.

Law enforcement officials want to question Gilani about the 1993 World Trade Center plot and about possible ties to Richard C. Reid, a British national who boarded a flight to the U.S. with explosives hidden in his sneakers.

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