Kashmiri rebels set hostage deadline

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The Independent Online
Srinagar, Kashmir (AP) - Kidnappers claiming to hold five Western tourists in Kashmir threatened to kill their hostages if soldiers continue to search the Himalayan mountains.

A man claiming to be a spokesman of the little-known Al-Faran group telephoned the Associated Press news agency in Srinagar and said his group had kidnapped another Westerner, a Norwegian tourist Hans Christian Ostrowho, who has been missing since Saturday.

Al-Faran is also believed to be holding two Britons, Paul Wells and Keith Mangan, an American and a German. Another American, John Childs, escaped his captors on Saturday and is now in New Delhi. Yesterday Mr Childs said he would not talk to the media until the other hostages were released.

The caller said: "Once again we want to tell the Indian government that if they continue to follow us, we will kill the hostages. If the government does not accede to our demands by 15 July, the consequences will be serious."The separatist group is demanding that India free 21 jailed rebel leaders or it will take an unspecified "extreme step".