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Separatists Fail To Provide Proof Of Hostages’ Well-Being, India Says

Kashmiri separatists contacted Indian negotiators Saturday but did not provide proof that their four Western hostages are alive and in good health, a state government spokesman said.

This week, the government urged the Al-Faran group to furnish photographs, tape recordings or answers to questions from the captives - American Donald Hutchings of Spokane, two Britons and a German.

The separatists have threatened to kill the four hostages unless India frees 15 of their jailed comrades. Last weekend, the rebels decapitated a fifth hostage, Hans Christian Ostro of Norway.

India has ordered the release of two dozen jailed Kashmiri separatists but denied that they include any of the 15 listed by Al-Faran. New Delhi says that acceptance of the rebels’ demand will lead to more terrorism and kidnappings in the Himalayan state.

Muslim rebels have been fighting since 1989 for the independence of Jammu-Kashmir, the only state in mostly Hindu India with a Muslim majority. At least 12,000 people have been killed.

“We are in contact with Al-Faran. The group was expected to furnish proof that the hostages are alive. It hasn’t done that so far,” Kulbushan Jandial, the state government spokesman, said in Srinagar, the summer capital.

On Wednesday, the militants told Indian officials that the four Western hostages were still alive and in good health.

They threatened Friday evening to kill them if India carried out a plan to rescue them.

India recently flew anti-terrorist commandos from its elite Black Cats unit to Jammu-Kashmir. India is considering a military operation only as “a last resort,” said K.V. Krishna Rao, the federally appointed governor of the state.


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