NEW DELHI, NOV. 1 -- A 43-year-old California man held hostage for 12 days by Kashmiri separatists near here said his captors kept him chained "like an animal" throughout his captivity and told him the kidnapping was intended to draw international attention to the civil war in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Bela Josef Nuss of Walnut Creek, Calif., and three British tourists kidnapped by members of a Kashmiri militant group were rescued in two raids Monday night and early this morning by Indian police, according to U.S. Embassy and police officials.
The kidnappers, who identified themselves as members of Muslim separatist groups fighting against Indian military forces in the four-year-old civil war in the Kashmir Valley, delivered notes to Western news agencies Monday demanding the release of 10 jailed Kashmiris. They threatened to behead their four captives if their demands were not met.
Late Monday night, police who were tipped off to suspicious activity at a house in a community just east of New Delhi rescued the American tourist and arrested at least one of the alleged kidnappers. Nuss, 43, said he was kept chained for 12 days by his captors, who did not otherwise harm him.
Police rescued the three British men during a raid on a house in a town about 90 miles north of New Delhi after a 4 a.m. shootout that left two policemen and one alleged kidnapper dead, according to police accounts. The three British tourists were unharmed.
It was the third incident involving attacks on Western tourists by Kashmiri separatists in recent months but was the first outside of the Kashmir Valley in the Himalayan state of Jammu and Kashmir, 350 miles northwest of New Delhi. In July an American tourist was shot dead in Srinagar, the Kashmiri summer capital, after an altercation with militants angry that he was taking photographs in their community, and two British teenagers were kidnapped while trekking in Kashmir and held nearly two weeks before they were released unharmed.
Members of the Kashmiri separatist groups Hadid and Harkat-ul-Ansar claimed responsibility for the recent kidnappings of the American and three British men as well as the two British trekkers.
The attacks on Westerners come as Kashmiri separatists and Indian and international human rights organizations have stepped up criticism of the United States and other Western nations for what they allege is decreasing interest in the civil war in Kashmir. The fighting has claimed an estimated 20,000 lives over the past four years.
Nuss, who said he was on a three- to four-month trip through India, said he was kidnapped Oct. 19 after a "well-dressed" Indian man befriended him and invited him to dinner at his home. The man picked Nuss up from his hotel in a rundown section of New Delhi on the evening of Oct. 19, then stopped to allow several "friends of the driver" to ride along, according to an account Nuss gave a Voice of America reporter in a taped interview.
"A short time after that, one grabbed me and one pointed a gun at me and said if I didn't cooperate they would not hesitate to blow my head off," said Nuss, who told reporters he has spent the last two years traveling and working in Japan.
Nuss said his captors chained him "like an animal" but fed him regularly and washed his hands before each meal. He said they told him, "We just want to tweak the nose of the Indian government."
The British tourists were lured to a town in the state of Uttar Pradesh after an Indian man approached them, told them his uncle had just died and that he had inherited a village in Uttar Pradesh, then invited the tourists to visit it with him.