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Odisha crisis: Uncertainty over hostages' release

Orissa,Terrorism, Sun, 08 Apr 2012 IANS

Bhubaneswar, April 8 (IANS) Odisha's efforts to secure the release of an Italian tour operator and a state legislator kidnapped by Maoists last month plunged into uncertainty Sunday with the ultras failing to budge from their demands.


Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda, whose group has been holding tour operator Bosusco Paolo since March 14 said the government must clarify whether it was facilitating the release of all the seven people the Maoists wanted.


Besides, the rebel leader in an audio message which was received by some local television channels here, also asked the government to make its stand clear on the 13 demands the rebels had made earlier.


Panda's audio message came a day after authorities announced that they had come into some agreement with the rebel-backed mediators on various issues raised by the Maoists to secure the release of the Italian tour operator.


The three senior officials represented by the government and two Maoists backed mediators had also announced the end of their talks and had appealed the abductors to release the Italian unharmed.


On the other hand, the release of ruling Biju Janata Dal lawmaker Jhina Hikaka who is being held hostage by another group of rebels since March 24, is likely to be delayed as his abductors have insisted that the government release five more prisoners.


Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said although his government had concluded negotiations with the Maoist-backed mediators for the release of the Italian, "there seemed to be some confusion." He said it will be cleared soon.


He also said the government is examining the legal aspect of the demands made by the kidnappers of the MLA.


Paolo was abducted by the Odisha unit of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) from Kandhamal district. Hikaka was kidnapped by the Andhra-Odisha border special zonal committee from Koraput district.


Both the groups have been asking the government to fulfill 13 demands, including the ban on tourism in tribal areas, a halt on the state's operations against Maoists, and the release of several prisoners.


They have set Tuesday as the deadline for the government to decide on their demands.


The state government had earlier announced to facilitate the release of 23 prisoners including eight Maoists to secure the release of the MLA and four others to secure the release of the Italian.


The kidnappers of the MLA and the Italians are now separately demanding the release of five and three prisoners respectively, in addition to what the government has announced.


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