Did pro-India militias kill Western tourists in Kashmir?

April 18, 2012

A government human rights commission in Kashmir on Tuesday evening said it will review records from the 1995 abduction of Western tourists after a new book claimed that four of six foreign tourists were murdered by a pro-India militia to discredit India’s arch-rival Pakistan.

On July 4, 1995, Americans Donald Hutchings and John Childs, as well as Britons Paul Wells and Keith Mangan were kidnapped by the little known Al-Faran militant group while trekking in the Himalayas near Pahalgam, 97 km (60 miles) southeast of Srinagar.

Four days later, Childs escaped. On the same day, the captors abducted German Dirk Hasert and Norwegian Hans Christian Ostroe. Ostroe was found beheaded in August 1995. The others were never found.

Journalists Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, whose book “The Meadow: Kashmir 1995 – Where the Terror Began” is about the abduction, claim that the four Westerners were murdered by a pro-government militia group who worked for Indian security forces.

After Ostroe was beheaded, Al-Faran was ready to strike a monetary deal to free the hostages and might have released them for £250,000, the authors claim. They say the deal was deliberately sabotaged.

“It appeared 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,” the book says.

Al-Faran then demanded the release of 21 prisoners, including Masood Azhar and Omar Sheikh, who were freed by the Indian government after the hijack of an Indian Airlines plane from Kathmandu in 1999.

The book claims a pro-government militia leader, Alpha, or Azad Nabi, alias Ghulam Nabi Mir, who used to be in Anantnag area of south Kashmir, had “bought” the four Western hostages from Al-Faran and held them for months before shooting them.

The investigators became convinced a pro-government militia group had control of the four Westerners after Al-Faran dropped them, according to the authors, quoting the Jammu and Kashmir police’s crime branch squad.

“The squad reported some of its thoughts to its seniors, using these kinds of words, ‘Sikander’s men handed over Paul, Dirk, Keith and Don to Alpha’s renegades in the third of fourth week of November, around the time when the final sightings dried up. Sikander has given up. Al-Faran is finished. Embarrassingly, India controls the renegades.'”

Quoting a crime branch detective, the book claims that the Indian government had not wanted the hostage crisis to end.

India authorities then said Al-Faran, which claimed responsibility for the abductions, was part of the Harkat-ul-Ansar militant group. But Harkat denied any ties with Al-Faran.

The U.S. state department later listed Harkat-ul-Ansar as one of 30 “foreign terrorist organisations” for which it is illegal to raise funds in the United States. It also bars visits by members or representatives of the groups.

The fresh demand for a probe into the hostage taking comes after a Kashmir-based human rights group requested the region’s State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) to investigate the circumstances surrounding the kidnapping and subsequent killing of the four Western tourists.


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Journalists are more and more tending to intellectual prostitution with only difference that prostitutes still have some integrity. If we go by some ‘journalists’ account, 911 was a Federal Government conspiracy, 711 was British government conspiracy, 2611 Indian government conspiracy. Either these so called journalists know more than mere mortals or they are simply selling their integrity for raking the moolah.

The logic of the ‘journalists’ Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark is beyond insanity. Indian government would kill the foreign tourists and let the whole world know about Kashmir problem. Or better internationalize Kashmir issue. The intended purpose of Indian government was to elicit sympathy from the world. Well, in that case, if the flight IC 814 was blown up by the terrorists, Indian government would have gained tons of sympathy.

May be the problem is with the white colored foreigners. If Indian government can set free hard core Maoists for one useless Italian in Odisha, I can’t buy this theory.

The bottomline is that journalism is in perpetual decline and the nutjobs are selling the conspiracies in the garb of journalism.

Posted by abhi1498 | Report as abusive

This coming from a Moslem writer with his own biasis, Truly appalling assumptions made with no axiomatic proof. Pakistan has been stirring the pot right from the day the brits partinoned India and Pakistan.
Kashmir is one of the most scenic and beautiful place in the world and look what these militants have turned it into. Shame on you guys and your ulterior motive for such demeaning blogs.

Posted by politicaljunkie | Report as abusive

There are several holes in this theory. For one, how does the writer assume a pro-India group to be Hindutvavadi?
This is a carryover of the Arab-Islamic fundamentalist opinion of secular India which is home to the second largest Muslim population in the world.
Even if one allows for India getting a renegade group to kidnap and behead a westerner to discredit Pakistan, how come it allowed the hostages to be killed on Indian soil? To plan an operation like that requires a good deal of effort; which we Indians know our armed forces to be incapable of.
To show Pakistan in bad light, India would have arranged for the killing to be done on Pakistani soil.
The writer is also confused about who kidnapped the tourists, and who ultimately held them. To assume that there was an understanding between the anti-India and pro-India groups is a little too far-fetched. The journalist’s pro-Pakistani bias has clouded his vision,,,,and honest opinion….

Posted by Ashtadhyayi | Report as abusive

Whatever the truth of that state of affairs, what is at issue is that tourists are also prime targets for ethnic conflicts. Tourists represent the nation state in a quasi sense, and so pay the high price if caught in ethnic conflict.

Posted by tro9tro | Report as abusive