1995 kidnapping of western tourists in Kashmir

Six western tourists and their two guides were kidnapped in the Liddarwat area of Pahalgam in the Anantnag district of Jammu and Kashmir, India on 4 July 1995 by forty militants from the Kashmiri Islamist militant organisation Harkat-ul-Ansar,[a][1] under the pseudonym of Al-Faran,[2] in order to secure the release of Harkat leader Masood Azhar and other militants.[3]

1995 kidnapping of western tourists in Kashmir
LocationLiddarwat, Jammu and Kashmir, India
Date4 July 1995 (4 July 1995)
Attack type
Kidnapping, hostage taking
PerpetratorsHarkat-ul-Ansar (Al-Faran)
No. of participants
MotiveRelease of Harkat-ul-Ansar leaders and other militants
WebsiteIncident Summary for GTDID: 199507040010

When their demands were not met, Norwegian Hans Christian Ostrø was beheaded on 13 August 1995. American John Childs managed to escape on 17 August, while the rest have never been found, but are presumed dead by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir issuing death certificates for the four on 28 January 2003.

Background edit

In 1989, Kashmiri militants[4] began an armed insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir.[4] Harkat-ul-Ansar (HuA),[a] an anti-Indian militant group under the similar pseudonym of Al-Hadid, had already perpetrated the 1994 kidnappings of western tourists in India in Delhi, lead by Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh to secure the release of HuA leaders. Sheikh was caught and ultimately imprisoned at the Tihar Jail in Delhi.[6][7] HuA then began using the pseudonym of Al-Faran and also committed a bus hijacking in Hapatnar in Anantnag district under that name.[8]

Kidnapping edit

The six victims included two British tourists, Keith Mangan of Middlesbrough and Paul Wells of Blackburn; two Americans, John Childs of Simsbury, Connecticut, and Donald Hutchings of Spokane, Washington; a German student, Dirk Hasert (14 August 1969–c. 1995); and a Norwegian actor, Hans Christian Ostrø (1968-13 August 1995). Mangan's and Hutchings' wives were left behind by the kidnappers as their husbands were abducted.[9][10]

A note released by the kidnappers a day after the kidnappings read, "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."[11] John Childs managed to escape and was rescued four days later.[12] Ostrø was beheaded by his abductors and his body was found near Pahalgam on 13 August 1995.[13] His body was taken to AIIMS, New Delhi, where a postmortem was conducted by Professor T. D. Dogra, who established that the beheading was the cause of death, and reported that the words "Al Faran" were carved onto his chest.[14] 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.[15] Mangan,[16] Wells, Hutchings, and Hasert have never been found and are presumed to have been killed.

In May 1996, a captured militant told Indian investigators and FBI agents that he had heard that all four hostages had been shot dead on 13 December 1995, nine days after an operation by Indian security forces that killed four of the original hostage-takers, including the man said to have been leading them, Abdul Hamid Turki.[17][18] Journalists Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark claim however, in their book The Meadow, that the remaining hostages were sold from Al-Faran to Ghulam Nabi Mir, also known as Azad Nabi, who held them for months before shooting them dead on 24 December 1995.[19] Ghulam Nabi Mir was at the time leader of pro-Indian Islamic guerrilla group Muslim Mujaheddin, a fraction of Hizbul Mujahideen, who organized themselves into the Patriotic Peoples Front in 1995 or 1996 to contest local elections.[20][21][22]

Al-Faran has been determined to be a pseudonym of Harkat-ul-Ansar;[2][a] however HuA has denied having any ties to it.[23]

Rescue attempt edit

According to the US-based Terrorism Research Center, Norwegian Forsvarets Spesialkommando (FSK) made an attempt to locate and rescue the Norwegian hostage Ostrø. "In 1995, a small force from the unit was deployed in the Kashmir region of India in an attempt to find and free a Norwegian citizen who was held hostage and later beheaded, by the Al-Faran guerrillas." The attempt was not successful. The Terrorism Research Center presented the information about FSK's missions in Kashmir without prejudice. The Norwegian Ministry of Defence has never admitted such an action taken place.[24]

Aftermath edit

The kidnappings were widely covered by western press and helped bring terrorism in Kashmir to the international communities attention. Donald Hutchings' wife Jane Schelly made repeated trips to the region to try to get some answers in vain.[25] In 1997, Indian police exhumed a body that was initially thought to be of British tourist Paul Wells.[26] However, subsequent forensic tests showed that the body did not belong to any of the tourists.[27] 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 in Karachi, Pakistan.

Amjad Farooqi, accused of being one of the kidnappers, was reported killed in Pakistan in September 2004.[28][29]

See also edit

Notes edit

  1. ^ a b c Harkat-ul-Ansar was the merger of Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen in 1993. Harkat-ul-Mujahideen had split from Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami 1985 but re-united, they split again in 1998. Jaish-e-Muhammad was formed as a splinter group of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen by Masood Azhar in 2000.[5]

References edit

  1. ^ Incident Summary at the Global Terrorism Database.
  2. ^ a b "Al Faran". TheFreeDictionary.com. WordNet, Princeton University.
  3. ^ Fifth Tourist Kidnapped in Kashmir, The New York Times, (9 July 1995)
  4. ^ a b Kashmiri Rebels Decapitate Captive Norwegian Tourist, The New York Times, (14 August 1995)
  5. ^ Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen. Center for International Security and Cooperation. Foreign Service Institute. Stanford University.
  6. ^ "Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh". Counter Extremism Project. Retrieved 23 August 2022.
  7. ^ Rath, Saroj Kumar (2020). "Ilyas Kashmiri through the Prism of HuJI, HuA, HuM, JeM, Brigade 313 and al Qaeda". SSRN Electronic Journal. doi:10.2139/ssrn.3704948. ISSN 1556-5068. S2CID 240721894.
  8. ^ "Al-Faran". Global Terrorism Database. Retrieved 8 September 2022.
  9. ^ "Middlesbrough hostage Keith Mangan abducted in Kashmir 20 years ago today". Gazettelive.co.uk. 4 July 2005. Retrieved 31 March 2018.
  10. ^ "'New age of terror' has Spokane link". The Spokesman-Review. 21 December 2014. Retrieved 31 March 2018.
  11. ^ Hijacking Revives Saga of Kashmir Kidnappings in '95, The New York Times, (31 December 1999)
  12. ^ American Tricks Captors in Kashmir and Bolts to Freedom, The New York Times, (10 July 1995)
  13. ^ Kashmiri Rebels Decapitate Captive Norwegian Tourist, The New York Times, 14 August 1995
  14. ^ Kidnapped book review, The New York Times, 9 August 1998
  15. ^ Worry Rising For Hostages Seized in India, The New York Times, (13 December 1995)
  16. ^ "Middlesbrough hostage Keith Mangan abducted in Kashmir 20 years ago today". 4 July 2015.
  17. ^ "Report: Spokane man killed in India : m.kitsapsun.com : Kitsap, Washington, News, Business, Homes, Jobs, Cars & Information". Archived from the original on 13 July 2011. Retrieved 13 July 2009.
  18. ^ Burns, John F. (6 July 1997). "No Answers for Wife of U.S. Hostage in Kashmir". The New York Times.
  19. ^ "IndoPak: New book claims India-backed group killed kidnapped Kashmir tourists". Public Radio International. 3 April 2012. Retrieved 31 March 2018.
  20. ^ "Jammu & Kashmir - Political Parties". peacekashmir.org. Retrieved 31 March 2018.
  21. ^ "Jolt to counter insurgency". The Milli Gazette. 1 July 2001. Retrieved 31 March 2018.
  22. ^ "Top counter-insurgent killed in J&K". Rediff.com. 16 June 2001. Retrieved 31 March 2018.
  23. ^ "Did pro-India militias kill Western tourists in Kashmir?". Reuters. 18 April 2012. Archived from the original on 21 April 2012. Retrieved 16 May 2012.
  24. ^ "-Spesialkommandoen skulle befri Osterø".
  25. ^ No Answers for Wife of U.S. Hostage in Kashmir, The New York Times, (6 July 1997)
  26. ^ Exhumed Body Is of British Hostage, India Confirms, Los Angeles Times, (6 January 2000)
  27. ^ Tests dispute Kashmir body identity, BBC, (27 March 2000)
  28. ^ Paper. South Asia Analysis Group.
  29. ^ "Al-Qaida and the Pakistani Harakat Movement: Reflections and Questions about the pre-2001 Period | Rassler | Perspectives on Terrorism". Archived from the original on 10 April 2018. Retrieved 10 April 2018.

Bibliography edit

External links edit