1995 Kidnapping of western tourists in Kashmir
The 1995 Kidnapping of western tourists in Kashmir was an act of kidnapping of six Western tourists by Al-Faran, a Kashmiri Islamist militant organisation from the Liddarwat area of Pahalgam in Anantnag district in south Jammu and Kashmir on 4 July 1995.
The six victims included two British tourists, Keith Mangan and Paul Wells; two Americans, John Childs of Simsbury, Connecticut and Donald Hutchings of Spokane, Washington; a German, Dirk Hasert; and a Norwegian, Hans Christian Ostrø. A note released by the kidnappers a day after the kidnappings said 'Accept our demands or face dire consequences. We are fighting against anti-Islamic forces. Western countries are anti-Islam, and America is the biggest enemy of Islam.' Childs managed to escape and was rescued four days later. Ostrø was beheaded by his abductors and his body was found near Pahalgam on 13 August 1995. The deadbody was taken to AIIMS,New Delhi,where postmortem was conducted by Professor T D Dogra, who established the beheading as antemortem and reported that the words "Al Faran" were carved onto his chest. The kidnappers demanded the release of Pakistani militant Maulana Masood Azhar who had been imprisoned by India and 20 other prisoners. Several national and international organisations issued appeals to Al-Faran to release the tourists. Representatives of the embassies of the victims' countries also visited Kashmir frequently to seek their release, without success. In December 1995, the kidnappers left a note that they were no longer holding the men hostage. Mangan, Wells, Hutchings, and Hasert have never been found and are presumed to have been killed.
In May 1996, a captured rebel told Indian investigators and F.B.I. agents that he had heard that all four hostages had been shot dead on 13 December 1995, nine days after an Indian military ambush that killed four of the original hostage-takers, including the man said to have been leading them, Abdul Hamid Turki.
Journalists Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, authors of a book about the abduction The Meadow: Kashmir 1995 – Where the Terror Began, allege that the four Westerners were murdered by a pro-government militia group working for the Indian security forces. They claim that after Ostrø's beheading, Al-Faran was ready to strike a monetary deal to free the hostages and release them for £250,000, but the deal was deliberately sabotaged by the Indian establishment. They assert that 'there were some in the Indian establishment who did not want this never-ending bad news story of Pakistani cruelty and Kashmiri inhumanity to end, even when the perpetrators themselves were finished'. They claim that pro-government militia leader based in Anantnag, Azad Nabi (also known as Alpha, or Ghulam Nabi Mir), bought the four Western hostages from Al-Faran and held them for months prior to shooting them.
The kidnappings were widely covered by western press and helped bring terrorism in Kashmir to the International communities attention. Donald Hutchings's wife Jane Schelly made repeated trips to the region to try to get some answers in vain. In 1997, Indian police exhumed a body that was initially thought to be of British tourist Paul Wells. However subsequent forensic tests ruled out that the body belonged to any of the tourists.Maulana Masood Azhar was subsequently released in exchange for passengers aboard hijacked Indian Airlines Flight 814 along with Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh. Sheikh was arrested in 2002 and was later tried and convicted for the kidnapping and beheading of Daniel Pearl.
- Fifth Tourist Kidnapped in Kashmir, The New York Times, (9 July 1995)
- Kashmiri Rebels Decapitate Captive Norwegian Tourist, The New York Times, (14 August 1995)
- Hijacking Revives Saga of Kashmir Kidnappings in '95, The New York Times, (31 December 1999)
- American Tricks Captors in Kashmir and Bolts to Freedom, The New York Times, (10 July 1995)
- Kashmiri Rebels Decapitate Captive Norwegian Tourist, The New York Times, 1995-08-14
- Kidnapped book review, The New York Times, 1998-08-09
- Worry Rising For Hostages Seized in India, The New York Times, (13 December 1995)
- "Report: Spokane man killed in India : m.kitsapsun.com : Kitsap, Washington, News, Business, Homes, Jobs, Cars & Information". Archived from the original on 21 July 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-13.
- Burns, John F. (6 July 1997). "No Answers for Wife of U.S. Hostage in Kashmir". The New York Times.
- "Did pro-India militias kill Western tourists in Kashmir?". Reuters. 18 April 2012. Retrieved 16 May 2012.
- No Answers for Wife of U.S. Hostage in Kashmir, The New York Times, (6 July 1997)
- Exhumed Body Is of British Hostage, India Confirms, Los Angeles Times, (6 January 2000)
- Tests dispute Kashmir body identity, BBC, (27 March 2000)