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Hostages Appear Healthy, According To India Villagers Residents Spot Spokane Man, Others Walking In Warm Clothes

The four Westerners held hostage by Kashmiri militants for six months were seen four days ago in a village in Jammu-Kashmir state, an official said Sunday.

The hostages, including Donald Hutchings of Spokane, were wearing warm clothes and looked healthy, a top government official said, quoting villagers who had spotted the hostages walking with 30 or 40 militants.

Residents of Hakura village in Anantnag district, about 90 miles south of Srinagar, the state capital, had seen the hostages, said the official in Jammu, the winter capital. He asked not to be identified.

The group was being led by an Afghan militant, the official quoted the villagers as saying. The Al-Faran militant outfit, which said it had kidnapped the Westerners, reportedly includes many Afghan nationals.

Earlier reports had indicated two of the hostages were seriously ill. One of them, according to those reports, had developed frostbite on a foot and needed urgent medical attention.

Besides Hutchings, the hostages are Keith Mangan, 33, of Middlesbrough, England; Paul Wells, 23, of London; and Dirk Hasert, 26, of Erfurt, Germany.

In August, the Al-Faran rebels decapitated Hans Christian Ostro, 27, of Oslo, Norway, and said they would kill the others if India failed to free the rebels’ jailed comrades.

But the Indian government refuses to do that.