1995 Kidnapping of western tourists in Kashmir

1995 Kidnapping of western tourists in Kashmir

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The 1995 Kidnapping of western tourists in Kashmir was an act of kidnapping of six foreign tourists by Al-Faran, a terrorist organisation, now known as Harkat-ul-Mujahideen
Harkat-ul-Mujahideen
Harkat-ul-Mujahideen- al-Islami is a Pakistan-based Islamic militant group operating primarily in Kashmir. In 1997, the United States designated Harakat al-Ansar a foreign terrorist organization for links to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, and in response the organization changed its name to...

 from the Liddarwat area of Pahalgam
Pahalgam
Pahalgam is a town and a notified area committee in Anantnag district in India's northernmost state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is a popular tourist destination, and every year, many tourists visit Pahalgam.- Geography :...

 in Anantnag
Anantnag
Anantnag , a city and a municipality in Anantnag district in the state of Jammu & Kashmir, India. Anantnag is regarded as the commercial and financial capital of the valley of Kashmir...

 district in south Jammu and Kashmir
Jammu and Kashmir
Jammu and Kashmir is the northernmost state of India. It is situated mostly in the Himalayan mountains. Jammu and Kashmir shares a border with the states of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab to the south and internationally with the People's Republic of China to the north and east and the...

 on 4 July 1995.

Background


Kashmir
Kashmir
Kashmir is the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent. Until the mid-19th century, the term Kashmir geographically denoted only the valley between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal mountain range...

 which has been described as 'Paradise on Earth' had been a popular tourist destination. In 1989, an armed insurgency started in Jammu and Kashmir
Jammu and Kashmir
Jammu and Kashmir is the northernmost state of India. It is situated mostly in the Himalayan mountains. Jammu and Kashmir shares a border with the states of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab to the south and internationally with the People's Republic of China to the north and east and the...

 which is still ongoing.

The Kidnappings


The six victims included two British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 tourists, Keith Mangan and Paul Wells; two Americans
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, John Childs of Simsbury, Connecticut
Simsbury, Connecticut
Simsbury is a suburban town in Hartford County, Connecticut, United States. The population was 23,234 at the 2000 census. The town was incorporated as Connecticut's twenty-first town in May 1670.-Early history:...

 and Donald Hutchings of Spokane, Washington
Spokane, Washington
Spokane is a city located in the Northwestern United States in the state of Washington. It is the largest city of Spokane County of which it is also the county seat, and the metropolitan center of the Inland Northwest region...

; a German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, Dirk Hasert; and a Norwegian
Norwegians
Norwegians constitute both a nation and an ethnic group native to Norway. They share a common culture and speak the Norwegian language. Norwegian people and their descendants are found in migrant communities worldwide, notably in United States, Canada and Brazil.-History:Towards the end of the 3rd...

, 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 words Al Faran were carved onto his chest. The kidnappers demanded the release of Pakistani militant Maulana Masood Azhar
Maulana Masood Azhar
Maulana Masood Azhar is a Pakistani mujaheddin leader and the founder of the militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed, based mainly in the Pakistan-administered portion of the state of Kashmir....

 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 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. http://www.nytimes.com/1997/07/06/world/no-answers-for-wife-of-us-hostage-in-kashmir.html?pagewanted=1

The aftermath


The kidnappings were widely covered by western press and helped bring terrorism
Terrorism
Terrorism is the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion. In the international community, however, terrorism has no universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition...

 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. 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
Maulana Masood Azhar
Maulana Masood Azhar is a Pakistani mujaheddin leader and the founder of the militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed, based mainly in the Pakistan-administered portion of the state of Kashmir....

 was subsequently released in exchange for passengers aboard hijacked Indian Airlines Flight 814
Indian Airlines Flight 814
Indian Airlines Flight 814 commonly known as IC 814 was an Indian Airlines Airbus A300 en route from Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal to Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi, India on Friday, December 24, 1999, when it was hijacked...

 along with Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh
Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh
Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh is a British-born militant of Pakistani descent with links to various Islamist militant organisations, including Jaish-e-Mohammed, al-Qaeda, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and the Taliban.He was arrested and served time in prison for...

. Sheikh was arrested in 2002 and was later tried and convicted for the kidnapping and beheading of Daniel Pearl
Daniel Pearl
Daniel Pearl was an American journalist who was kidnapped and killed by Al-Qaeda.At the time of his kidnapping, Pearl served as the South Asia Bureau Chief of the Wall Street Journal, and was based in Mumbai, India. He went to Pakistan as part of an investigation into the alleged links between...

.

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