August 13, 1995
SRINAGAR, India (CNN) -- The Kashmiri rebel group Al- Faran has made good on its threat to begin killing Western hostages kidnapped last month unless India releases 15 militants held in prison there.
Hans Christian Ostro, 27, of Norway was found decapitated Sunday in the village of Seer, about 30 miles south of where he and five other Western hikers were last seen. A note in Ostro's pocket warned that Al-Faran would continue the killing unless their demand is met.
"We have killed the hostage because the government has failed to accept our demands," the note read. "In 48 hours, if our demands are not met, the other hostages will meet the same fate."
Ostro and German national Dirk Hasert were abducted in the Jammu-Kashmir region of India near the Pakistani border on July 8, four days after Americans Donald Hutchings and John Childs and Britons Paul Wells and Keith Mangan were kidnapped in the same area. Childs escaped on the same day Ostro and Hasert were taken hostage.
Indian authorities earlier said they were trying to negotiate a peaceful release of the Westerners but declined to comment about how Ostro's killing would affect India's approach to the crisis. A special Crisis Task Force is now meeting in the Kashmir capital of Srinagar to assess the situation.
Some 45,000 Indian security forces have been dispatched to the remote Himalayan region. The kidnappers are reportedly moving the hostages from camp to camp to elude capture.
International groups have roundly condemned both the kidnapping and now the killing of a hostage. "What is important now is that those who are responsible for this act have to answer for it," said Norwegian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ingvard Havnen.
"We strongly condemn the killing of the hostage and call on the Al-Faran organization to quickly and unconditionally release the remaining hostages," a U.S. State Department spokesperson told CNN.
Al-Faran is reportedly a unit of the Harkat ul-Ansar, which this year was added to the U.S. State Department's list of international terrorist organizations. Harkat ul-Ansar, based in Pakistan, kidnapped two British hikers in Jammu- Kashmir in 1994, releasing them after two and a half weeks of captivity.
Jammu-Kashmir, the sole Muslim-majority state in mostly-Hindu India, has been the scene of almost constant struggle for the past six years. India and Muslim-dominated Pakistan have fought two wars over the region, and various rebel factions have further destabilized the situation. Currently a cease- fire line down the middle of the state divides it between India and Pakistan.
Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto also has appealed to Al Faran to release the hostages.
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