Kashmiri separatists holding a Spokane man and four European tourists said two captives were wounded Friday in a gunbattle between the militants and Indian forces.
But the Indian government denied a gunfight had occurred. “The whole story is baseless,” said I. Ramamohan Rao, a spokesman in New Delhi for the Kashmiri state government. “There has been no clash.”
The Al-Faran group, in a statement issued in Srinagar, said the 25-minute battle killed two Indian soldiers, wounded several more and critically wounded one guerrilla.
It did not say which two hostages were wounded or whether the injuries were serious. But it said the rebels “were successful in taking the tourists to a safe place alive.”
Jane Schelly, the wife of Spokane psychologist Don Hutchings, reportedly told friends in Spokane that the rebels’ claims were being discounted by officials in Srinagar and may be simply a negotiating tactic.
Hutchings, two Britons, a German and a Norwegian - were kidnapped beginning July 4 near the tourist town of Pahalgam as they hiked through the remote Himalayan mountains of Kashmir in northern India.
Schelly, three other women and one man were released on July 5. Schelly, an Arlington Elementary School physical education teacher, remains in Srinagar awaiting Hutchings release.
Al-Faran issued a statement Thursday night reiterating a threat to kill the hostages unless Indian forces stop searching for them and free 21 jailed Kashmiri guerrillas.