KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) Authorities know the identity of reporter Daniel Pearl”s kidnappers and are “very close to resolving the case,” a top police official said yesterday. Sources said three men had been arrested for sending last week”s e-mails that contained photographs of Pearl.

Mukhtar Ahmed Sheikh, in charge of police here in Sindh province, refused to say who was behind the kidnapping. Pearl, 38, was last seen Jan. 23 on his way to meet a Muslim fundamentalist contact at a Karachi restaurant.

However, a U.S. State Department official said yesterday that Pakistani police are looking for Sheik Omar Saeed in connection with the kidnapping. Saeed was one of three men freed by India on Dec. 31, 1999 to end a hijacking of an Indian Airlines flight to Kandahar, Afghanistan. Authorities said the hijackers were acting in support of militants in Kashmir Indian territory disputed by Pakistan.

The Washington official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Pearl was supposed to be meeting with Saeed at the time of his kidnapping.

“The fact is we know who has done it,” Sheikh told The Associated Press. He said officials are drawing nearer to resolving the kidnapping.

“There are questions which, if I answer, could affect the case.” he added. “But it is enough to say that we might conclude the whole thing very soon, sooner than you think.”

Sheikh said he believed Pearl was still alive, adding, “there are so many things I cannot talk about.”

Although Sheikh gave no details of any progress, other sources close to the investigation said Karachi police have arrested three men identified only as Suleiman, Fawad and Adeel believed to have sent two e-mails that included pictures of Pearl.

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