1995 Kidnapping of western tourists in Kashmir

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The five Western tourists under the custody of Al-Faran militants. (Seated from left to right) Keith Mangan, Dirk Hasert, Hans Christian Ostrø, Paul Wells, and Donald Hutchings.

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.[1]

Background[edit]

In 1989, an armed insurgency started in Jammu and Kashmir.[2]

The kidnappings[edit]

The six victims included two British tourists, Keith Mangan (from Middlesbrough) 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.'[3] Childs managed to escape and was rescued four days later.[4] Ostrø was beheaded by his abductors and his body was found near Pahalgam on 13 August 1995.[5] His body was taken to AIIMS, New Delhi, where a 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.[6] 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.[7] 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.[8][9]

The Indian authorities alleged that Al-Faran was a branch of Harkat-ul-Ansar; however the militant group denied having any such ties to Al-Faran.[10]

Rescue Attempt[edit]

According to the US based The Terrorism Research Center, Norwegian special forces from the Forsvarets Spesialkommando ( FSK ) made an attempt to locate and rescue the Norwegian hostage Ostrø. "In 1995, a small force from the unit 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.[11]

The aftermath[edit]

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.[12] In 1997, Indian police exhumed a body that was initially thought to be of British tourist Paul Wells.[13] However subsequent forensic tests ruled out that the body belonged to any of the tourists.[14] 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 in Karachi, Pakistan.

See also[edit]

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