First signs of hope for hostages held in Kashmir

TIM MCGIRK

Srinagar

For the first time since five Western tourists were kidnapped by Kashmiri rebels in the Himalayas six weeks ago, Indian negotiators are expressing guarded optimism that the surviving hostages may soon be freed.

Powerful radios have been given to the Al-Faran rebels through an emissary which reportedly allows the Indians and foreign diplomats to speak directly to the kidnappers - believed to be hiding in the mountain forests. It is hoped that this direct channel of communication will allow diplomats to verify that the two Britons - Keith Mangan, 33, from Tooting, and Paul Wells, 23, from Nottingham - along with a German and American are still alive. A Norwegian hostage was earlier killed by the rebels.

Officially, India insists it will not bend to Al-Faran's demands that 15 Kashmiri rebel commanders be allowed to walk free from Indian prisons. But it seems possible that India might be willing to cut a deal. Police sources in Srinagar claim that two prisoners high on Al-Faran's list have been moved out of the high-security Tihar jail in New Delhi closer to Kashmir.

The two commanders, Azhar Masood and Nasrullah Largyal, are thought to be mujahedin - Islamic warriors - from Pakistan and Afghanistan who considered the Muslim uprising in Indian Kashmir to be a Holy War. Both men are founders of Harakat-Ul-Ansar, an extremist Kashmir group which last year captured two Britons but later released them unharmed.

The authorities claim that Harakat-Ul-Ansar have ties with military intelligence in Pakistan, India's enemy neighbour which also covers Kashmir.A third rebel commander as yet unidentified may also be traded for the captive tourists.

Indian officials caution that no release of the four tourists is expected soon. Most likely, they said, negotiations could drag on for several days or even weeks, as Al-Faran and the government work out details of a safe passage so that the Al-Faran rebels and the freed commanders can escape to safety across the mountain border to Pakistan.

The glimmer of a first breakthrough in talks between the Indian and the 17 Al-Faran gunmen came after an emissary from the rebels on Sunday reportedly held face-to-face talks with an Indian negotiator. Several hours later, the Kashmir state governor, General Krishna Rao, publicly said that India preferrred a diplomatic solution to save the hostages. "The government has no plan to launch a military operation to secure the release of the four abducted tourists," he said in a statement.

The Foreign Office declined to comment. But Anti-terrorist experts from Scotland, and possibly the SAS, along with the FBI and German police are now in Kashmir, advising Indian security forces on the hostage crisis.

Julie Mangan, wife of hostage Keith, and Catherine Moseley, girlfriend of the other British captive, Mr Wells, are anxiously waiting news of further progress in the negotiations while they are being cared for by British diplomats in New Delhi.

News
people And here is why...
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
Voices
voicesBy the man who has
Sport
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
News
Floyd
newsFloyd 'Creeky' Creekmore still performed regularly to raise money for local hospitals
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson star in The Twilight Saga but will not be starring in the new Facebook mini-movies
tvKristen Stewart and Stephenie Meyer will choose female directrs
News
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Arts and Entertainment
Twerking girls: Miley Cyrus's video for 'Wrecking Ball'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
Extras
indybestKeep extra warm this year with our 10 best bedspreads
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Real Estate Solicitor 2+PQE - City

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGH VALUE REAL ESTATE / RESID...

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Are you looking for part time/ ...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?