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December 25, 1999
Hijackers demand Maulana Masood Azhar's release
Our Correspondent in Srinagar
In 1993, the Indian army arrested Sajjad Afghani, the then chief commander of the Harkat-ul-Ansar. The Harkat is a militant outfit in Kashmir fighting for the secession of the state from India and making it an Islamic state.
Along with him they arrested the then general secretary of the organisation Maulana Masood Azhar, who according to authorities in Srinagar was a journalist working in an Urdu newspaper in Pakistan before he joined the militant outfit. Maulana Azhar is one of the militants whose release from prison the hijackers of Indian Airlines Flight 814 have demanded.
The arrest of these men was one of the biggest successes achieved by the Indian army at that time, as the Harkat-ul Ansar was very active in Anantnag.
On July 4, 1995, a lesser known and newly formed outfit Al-Faran abducted five foreign nationals from the upper reaches of Pahalgam, including American national Donald Hutchings, two Britons Paul Wells and Keith Mangen, German citizen Dirk Hasert and Norwegian Hans Christian Ostro.
The abductors had demanded the release of Masood Azhar, Sajjad Afghani and several others top militants lodged in various jails in Jammu and Kashmir. In order to pressurise the Indian government to release these detenues they beheaded Ostro.
Negotiations were held for nearly six months to secure the release of the abducted tourists. However, the state government and the Centre did not release the militants.
The other tourists have not been seen again.
'I got positive indications that the four hostages are alive and well'
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