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The widow of Daniel Pearl has sued more than a dozen reputed terrorists and Pakistan's largest bank, blaming them for the torture and murder of the Wall Street Journal reporter in 2002.
A complaint filed Wednesday in Brooklyn federal court by Mariane Pearl and her husband's estate alleges Habib Bank Limited of Karachi knowingly provided financial services for al-Qaida and other terrorist groups.
Backed by the bank, terrorists "carried out the kidnapping, ransom, torture, execution and dismemberment of Daniel Pearl and broadcast those images nationwide," the lawsuit said. The suit seeks unspecified damages for acts it alleges were meant to "emotionally destroy the Pearl family and terrorize, appall and frighten American citizens."
Also named as a defendant in the suit is Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the imprisoned al-Qaida No. 3 leader and suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, along with an outlawed Islamic charity, the al-Rashid Trust.
Mohammed, who was caught in Pakistan and is now being held at the US prison for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, claimed to have personally beheaded Pearl, according to a partial Pentagon transcript of his testimony at a military tribunal.
The suit claims the trust, which banked with Habib, was a front for Mohammed and al-Qaida that "abetted and conspired" in the Pearl slaying. Pakistan banned the charity earlier this year as part of an effort to dry up terrorist financing.
There was no immediate response to a message left with the bank's Manhattan office. Late last year, U.S. regulators announced that the bank had agreed to bolster policies aimed at detecting abuses by terrorist financiers, money launderers and other criminals.
Mariane Pearl, a French citizen, said in a statement that she hoped the suit would compel the defendants to provide more answers about her husband's death.
"I am looking for the truth of what happened to Daniel, for our family, our friends, and the public record," she said. "This process allows us to delve deeper into the investigation, and to bring accountability and punishment to those involved with his kidnapping, torture and murder."
Pearl, the South Asia bureau chief for the Journal, was abducted from Karachi while researching a story on Islamic militancy. His remains were later found in a shallow grave in Karachi's eastern outskirts.
During the ordeal, the kidnappers used the victim's cell phone "to call and threaten plaintiff Mariane Pearl, who was in Pakistan searching for Daniel," the suit said. "Realizing she did not speak Urdu, the kidnappers hung up."
Pakistan has convicted several men in the case. British-born Islamic militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Shaikh was sentenced to death in July 2002 and his three accomplices were given life prison terms. Their appeals are pending before the Sindh High Court.
Mariane Pearl is represented by a Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, law firm, Motley Rice. The firm has brought other suits against Middle Eastern banks and companies on behalf of Sept. 11 victims.