The 1995 kidnapping of six foreign tourists in Kashmir in some ways marked the lowest point of the simmering separatist rebellion that has plagued the beautiful mountainous region -- though local residents could point to dozens of incidents that were as bad or worse and barely made headlines abroad.
The six tourists, Americans Don Hutchings and John Childs, Britons Keith Mangan and Paul Wells, German Dirk Hasert and Norwegian Hans Christian Ostro were allegedly abducted by Al Faran, an offshoot of the now defunct Harkat-ul-Mujahideen.
John Childs escaped and managed to be rescued. Ostro was beheaded. The other four were never seen or heard from again.
Now a new book claims that they were killed by a group of militants sponsored by the Indian army, writes the Asian Age.
"Investigative journalists Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, who have written their new book, The Meadow: Kashmir 1995 — Where the Terror Began, about the abduction, claim that the four Westerners were murdered by a group of Kashmiri militants who worked for the Indian Army," the paper writes.
The book claims that a pro-government renegade, Alpha, or Azad Nabi, alias Ghulam Nabi Mir, who used to be based in Shalipora near Anantnag in Kashmir, had “bought” the four Western hostages from Al Faran and held them for months before shooting them.
Quoting the Kashmir police’s crime branch squad, the two authors write that the investigators had been convinced that the Indian-controlled renegades had the control of four Westerners after Al Faran dropped them.
“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.’”
The book also quotes a crime branch source, who worked alongside the police’s Special Task Force in Kashmir and had been a scout for the Rashtriya Rifles about the fate of the four Westerners. The hostages were brought to the isolated twin villages of Mati Gawran, near the Mardan Top Pass, and about five-hour drive from Anantnag, the source is quoted as saying.
“The foreigners were hustled into a house by some STF boys and renegades. We gathered up the hostages and walked them out into the snow. There was only one end waiting for them, and we all knew it. No one could risk the hostages being released and complaining of collusion, having seen uniforms and STF jeeps, possibly hearing things too that they understood.”
The four hostages were shot dead and buried in the frozen ground near a grove of trees behind the lower village on December 24, 1995, according to the source.
“We led them into the trees, a good, hard walk behind the lower village. I remember that the snow was heavy and deep. And there they were shot. I did not do it, but I saw it with my own eyes. Afterwards, village men were forced at gunpoint to dig a hole down through the frozen earth in which to bury the bodies.”