A Kashmiri separatist group holding a Spokane man and three other Westerners hostage extended its Saturday deadline to kill the captives.
But in a statement to a local newspaper, the AlFaran group warned the Indian government not to waste any more time and to free 15 of its jailed members in exchange for the captives’ freedom.
The statement did not set a new deadline.
On Friday, the kidnappers warned that they would execute the hostages if the government did not free 15 imprisoned rebels by Saturday evening. They have already decapitated a Norwegian hostage.
“We are extending the deadline on the appeal of the relatives of the hostages,” said the statement to the Al-Sfa newspaper. “We advise the Indian government not to waste any more time and meet our demand and we want to make it clear that the responsibility for the hostages safety is now with the Indian government.”
Jammu-Kashmir government’s spokesman Kulbhusan Jandial said he has no information on the new deadline and had not seen the statement.
“We can, however, hope that good sense will prevail on the kidnappers and no harm will come to the hostages,’ Jandial told The Associated Press.
The shadowy Al-Faran group kidnapped six Westerners in the Himalayan mountains of Jammu-Kashmir state more than two months.
An American, John Childs, escaped soon after being captured. The rebels killed a Norwegian, Hans Christian Ostro, and dumped his body near a roadside canal Aug. 13.
The four hostages still being held are psychologist Donald Hutchings, 42, of Spokane; Keith Mangan, 33, of Middlesbrough, England; Paul Wells, 23, of London; and Dirk Hasert, 26, of Erfurt, Germany.
Militants in Kashmir, the only Muslim-majority state in mainly Hindu India, have been fighting for independence since late 1989.