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03.13.2002

"60 MINUTES II" INTERVIEWS THE MAN DANIEL PEARL WAS TRYING TO MEET WHEN HE WAS KIDNAPPED

Thousands of Disciples Called "Muslims of America" May Be More Dedicated To Militant Islamic Cause Than Followers of Osama bin Laden

60 MINUTES II producer/reporter George Crile interviewed Sheik Mubarak Ali Shah Gilani, the man Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was going to meet when he was kidnapped, and Khalid Khawaja, a former member of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Agency. Pearl was reportedly following up on a lead that Richard Reid, the alleged shoe bomber, may have been a part of Gilani's network of disciples. The story, reported by Correspondent Dan Rather, is based on the interviews, which were conducted in mid-February and will be broadcast tonight (13) on 60 MINUTES II (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

In the world of militant Islam, Khawaja is known to be a friend to many - including Gilani. "...[Pearl] came to me in, I think, in the end of September, maybe," remembers Khawaja. "...[Pearl] called me from Bombay...and he asked me to introduce him with some people in Karachi. I did that." Khawaja says he specifically told Pearl that Gilani would not see him, but that Pearl kept pursing the meeting. "...He kept on calling me on radio and then asking my opinion and discussing certain things with me and then he just disappeared," says Khawaja. Soon after, Sheik Gilani was jailed as the principal suspect in Pearl's kidnapping. "I have all my sympathies and my feelings for Daniel. I was more worried about Mubarak Gilani and his family, who are, in fact, kidnapped, because there's nothing against them. There's no case."

But until two years ago, Gilani and his followers were on the United States' State Department's list of terrorist organizations -- the same report that Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaida network now dominates. Thousands of Gilani's followers, the Muslims of America, operate from 19 states across the U. S. and, according to Khawaja, they are even more dedicated than bin Laden's followers. "...Osama doesn't have many people in America, but here, he has lots and lots of followers...who are as committed as they are to Sheik Mubarak Gilani," says Khawaja, who was interviewed in Pakistan. "I am very sure -- I know the followers of Osama and I do not know of even one, I am telling you, not even one who is as committed as the least of [Gilani's] people."

Gilani tells Crile that he had nothing to do with Pearl's kidnapping and he doesn't know Richard Reid. "Daniel Pearl, I never heard about...I do not know anything about him," says Gilani. "I mean, I keep to myself and I do what I think is best for the people who follow me: first is peace. You know, another is work hard for a living and they should be honest, good, trustworthy. That's all I told them...if anybody does anything wrong, why blame me? Will you blame-- blame the Pope if somebody -- some Christian does something wrong? No."

Jeff Fager is the executive producer of 60 MINUTES II. George Crile is the producer.