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Pearl murder trial under way, finally

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 23, 2002

KARACHI, Pakistan -- A taxi driver testified Monday that he saw Daniel Pearl get into a car with an Islamic militant the day the Wall Street Journal reporter vanished.

The testimony, on the first day of proceedings against the British-born Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and three co-defendants, came after the four pleaded innocent to charges of murder, kidnapping and terrorism in Pearl's kidnap-slaying.

The taxi driver, Nassir Abbas, testified that on Jan. 23 he drove Pearl to the Metropole Hotel in downtown Karachi after taking him to a previous appointment, according to the chief prosecutor and a defense attorney.

Abbas said a white Toyota Corolla pulled up near the hotel and Saeed got out and shook hands with Pearl. They both then got into Saeed's car, chief prosecutor Raja Quereshi said Abbas told the court.

In other news ...

IMPASSE IN AFGHANISTAN: Fed up with checkpoints and armed men demanding unofficial "fees," shippers balked Monday at paying more charges, leaving a long line of elaborately painted trucks piled high with cloth, tires, television sets and car parts going nowhere.

As Afghanistan's fragile interim regime struggles to extend its rule beyond the capital of Kabul, some warlords are reverting to old habits, setting up private checkpoints levying their own "tax" on the goods passing through their territory.

By the time the trucks reached the southern administrative hub of Kandahar, the owners had had it and refused to pay anything more.

About 300 trucks decorated with swirling floral designs were lined up Monday at the entrance to Kandahar.

Some of the trucks had been stranded for up to 12 days as the owners of the goods they were transporting haggled with customs officials over what should be paid.

INQUIRIES BEGIN: A Canadian board of inquiry began its investigation Monday into the U.S. friendly fire incident that killed four Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan.

Eight soldiers also were injured when an American F-16 pilot on a night patrol apparently mistook the Canadians for enemy forces.

A separate U.S. military investigation also is being conducted, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld promised full cooperation with Canada.

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