1994 Kidnappings of Westerners in India
A violent insurgency had been going on in Jammu and Kashmir since 1989. Some kidnappings of foreign tourists had been attempted by Kashmiri separatists, most notably the attempt to kidnap 7 Israelis in 1991. However, up until this point the separatists had not kidnapped anybody outside of the disputed state.
Three of those kidnapped, Paul Benjamin Ridout, Christopher Myles Croston and Rhys Partridge (Australian citizen of British heritage), were from Great Britain and a fourth, Béla Nuss, was an American from San Francisco, California.
The tourists were all befriended by young British Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh who was a member of Harkat-ul-Ansar and pretending to be an Indian by the name of Rohit Sharma. He told them that his uncle had died and left a village for him. He then invited them to visit the village with him. The three Britons were taken to a village near Saharanpur and kept captive there by his associates. Béla Nuss was the last to be kidnapped and was kept in Ghaziabad just outside Delhi. The kidnappers demanded that the Indian government free 10 militants imprisoned in Kashmir and threatened to behead their captives if the demand was not met.
Béla Nuss was freed on October 31 when the police, while investigating a robbery, stumbled on the house where he was being kept captive. After information given to the police by Nuss about other hostages being held, police staked out the house, captured one of the drivers, and interrogation of two terrorists later arrested at the site led them to the village of Saharanpur, where the Britons were being held captive. Omar Sheikh was also captured and wounded when he had returned to the Ghaziabad house to talk to Nuss after being informed that he had stopped eating four days before. Two policemen and a miltant were killed in a pre-dawn shoot-out at the second location on November 1. All the tourists were freed unhurt.
Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh was incarcerated in Tihar Jail and stayed in prison till December 1999 when he was released in exchange for the passengers aboard hijacked Indian Airlines Flight 814. He subsequently went on to murder Daniel Pearl. He was sentenced to death on July 14, 2002 in Pakistan. Three Pakistani militants belonging to Harkat-ul-Ansar were awarded death sentences and 3 others were given life sentences by a Delhi court in April 2002 for their roles in this kidnapping.
The kidnapping was the subject of a 2008 episode of the TV series, Kidnapped Abroad.
- Kashmir Rebels Kill Israeli Tourist, Marking New Phase in Conflict, The New York Times, 1991-06-28
- Indian Police Free 3 Britons Held Hostage, The New York Times, 1994-11-02
- 3 Britons and 1 American Freed From Kashmiri Militants in India, The New York Times, 1994-11-01
- Briton recalls brush with ‘reluctant kidnapper’, Dawn, 2002-02-15
- A NATION CHALLENGED: A SUSPECT; Confession in 1994 Case Evokes Pearl Abduction, The New York Times, 2002-02-08
- My big adventure, Harper's Magazine, January 2002
- Tihar — base of Islamic radicals?, The Tribune, 2002-02-16
- Omar Sheikh sentenced to death in Pearl murder case, Rediff.com, 2002-07-15
- 3 Harkat militants awarded death sentence, The Times of India, 2002-04-27
- 3 Pakistanis sentenced to death, The Hindu, 2002-04-28