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US sleuths interrogated Kashmiri insurgents in 90s

Shahnawaz Khan

Srinagar, March 22, 2009:

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US interrogators questioned militants captured in Indian administered Kashmir by Indian troopers in 90s, a declassified document of the Central Investigation Agency (CIA) reveals.

The top secret report prepared by the federal intelligence agency in 1996 and declassified in 2004 is now available on the CIA website www.foia.cia.gov.

The document reports about “increasing threat level” to the US and Pakistan by the radical militant group Harkat ul Ansar (HUA), then active in Kashmir and accused of kidnapping western tourists.

In July 1995, a shadowy outfit calling itself Al Faran abducted six Western tourists from south Kashmir’s tourist resort Pahalgam.

One of them, an American, John Childs, escaped within a week while another, a Norwegian, Hans Ostro, was brutally beheaded in August.

The fate of other four was unknown and continues to be a mystery in Kashmir.

Their families even flew to Srinagar next year to appeal for their release.

Al Faran was considered by many as a front for HUA. The CIA report states that Al faran was a codename for HUA.

Expressing apprehension over the killing of the kidnapped tourists, the CIA report says: “A high level HUA militant captured by Indian security forces told US interrogators that the hostages were killed on 13 December because Indian security forces had killed the kidnapper’s leader early that month and the group was under pressure from the Indian Army. Much of the captured militant’s other information has been corroborated by other sources.”

The report discusses the militant group HUA and its potential threats to Pakistan and the US with decreasing support from Islamabad.

However, according to the CIA transcript, they were killed as early as December 1995, soon after the five Al-Faran militants along with their commander Abdul Hamid alias Turki were killed in encounter with Indian army at Dabran.

Around the same time, Al-Faran issued a press statement alleging that after the gunfight with the Indian Army, three of the tourists were arrested by the Army while the fourth is missing.

The army denied the allegation.

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