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Proof That Hostages Are Alive Sought

One year after Kashmiri militants seized four Western tourists, the United States and three European governments appealed to the kidnappers Thursday to prove the hostages are still alive.

Rebels belonging to the Al-Faran separatist group had threatened to kill their captives if India refused to release jailed militants.

India has not released the prisoners, but it is not known if the rebels carried out their threat.

“End the uncertainty that causes so much pain to their families and loved ones,” said the U.S. Embassy in a statement released on behalf of Britain, Germany and Norway.

The statement condemned the kidnappings, which began last July 4, as “an assault on free people everywhere.”

Al-Faran claimed to hold four men: Donald Hutchings of Spokane; Keith Mangan and Paul Wells of Great Britain; and Dirk Hasert of Germany.

They decapitated a fifth hostage, Norwegian Hans Christian Ostro, last August.

Another American, John Childs, 41, of Simsbury, Conn., managed to escape shortly after he was seized.

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