Kidnapped Tourists’ Fate Sought
NEW DELHI, India (AP) _ Western governments pledged Wednesday to continue searching for the fate of four missing tourists who were kidnapped in 1995 by Islamic militants in Kashmir and are now feared dead.
The missing tourists, who include American Donald Hutchings, two Britons and one German, were trekking in July 1995 in Kashmir’s Pahalgam district when they and two more companions were kidnapped by militants fighting to separate Muslim-dominated Kashmir from Hindu-majority India.
Their abductors demanded the release of 21 of their jailed comrades in return for the six hostages. India refused.
John Childs of Simsbury, Conn., escaped within days, but the beheaded body of Norwegian Hans Christian Ostro was found a month later.
Still missing are Hutchings of Spokane, Wash., Keith Mangan and Paul Wells of Britain and Dirk Hasert of Germany.
Indian police have captured militants who said the remaining hostages were killed in December 1995 or January 1996. But extensive searches for the remains have turned up nothing.
``There have been no substantial reports of sightings of the hostages since late 1995, and no new demands by the kidnappers to justify any hope that the four missing men are still alive,″ said a statement by governments of Norway, Germany, the United States and Britain.
``We shall continue to make every effort and follow up every lead, working closely with the governments of India and Pakistan, to establish precisely what happened to the kidnap victims,″ the statement said.
The four countries have offered rewards for information that would establish if, how or when the missing men died.
Hutchings’ wife, Jane Schelly, arrived in Kashmir last week on the latest of several journeys over the years to learn the whereabouts of her husband. She has talked to local police and state officials, made media appeals and distributed leaflets in Kashmir offering a reward for information on her husband’s fate.