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Kashmir Offers Hostage Reward

After criticizing a U.S. reward as meddling, Kashmir’s state government offered its own bounty Friday for information leading to the release of four Westerners kidnapped in the northern state last year.

The government also said that a special telephone line and mailing address have been established for collecting information.

The Kashmir reward was $28,500. Last month, the United States offered $2 million for information that would lead to the release of Spokane psychologist Donald Hutchings, the only American hostage.

Hutchings’ wife, Jane Schelly, recently made a trip to India and Pakistan to help set up the reward.

When the American offer was made, Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah said: “If anything is to be done, it should be done by the Indian government.”

A little-known group calling itself Al Faran claimed responsibility after Hutchings, two Britons and a German disappeared in July 1995. Al Faran offered to exchange the hostages for rebels being held in Indian jails. Negotiations with the kidnappers were broken off a year ago.

Kidnapped along with Hutchings were Keith Mangan, 33, of Middlesborough, England; Paul Wells, 24, of London; and Dirk Hasert, 27, of Erfurt, Germany.