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Maoists release Italian hostage, MLA still held (Roundup)

Orissa,Terrorism, Thu, 12 Apr 2012 IANS

Bhubaneswar, April 12 (IANS) Maoists Thursday released Italian tour operator Bosusco Paolo after keeping him in captivity for nearly a month, while the fate of another hostage, Odisha's ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) legislator Jhina Hikaka, continued to remain uncertain.


Dandapani Mohanty, a Maoist-backed mediator, received the Italian hostage from the Maoists in a forested area of Kandhamal district, around 200 km from here. He said Paolo was released at about 5 a.m.


"I am fine, I am well", Paolo said in Oriya, waving his hands to people waiting outside the state guest house here. "Maoists treated me well. I am happy being a free man now," Paolo, who has lived in the state for more than two decades, said.


Taking to reporters, Paolo said he will go back to Italy to meet his father and relatives. "I am tired and need some rest," the Italian said after undergoing a health examination and meeting officials of the state and the Italian embassy in India.


"I don't know if I will come back again, but I have got all love and affection, kindness and friendship of people here," he added.


"I have a special place in my heart for Odisha which I will cherish in spite of this difficult period," he said. Paolo was scheduled to leave for Delhi and from there fly to Italy, officials said.


Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik voiced relief at the release of the Italian.


Meanwhile, Mohanty said the rebels were still not happy with the government. "They want the government to release all the innocent tribals from jails."


Several senior police and officials of the Italian embassy in India met Paolo in the guesthouse and enquired about his health.


Paolo had been kidnapped March 14 with another Italian, Claudio Colangelo, from a forested area of Kandhamal district.


The rebel group led by Sabyasachi Panda had released Colangelo 11 days later as a "goodwill gesture" but were insisting that the government release at least seven prisoners in exchange for Paolo.


Paolo's release comes two days after a court acquitted Panda's wife Subhashree Das, one of those whose release had been sought by the Maoists. She had been accused of involvement in a gunbattle between police and Maoists in 2003.


However, the fate of Hikaka, who has been in the captivity of another group of rebels since March 24, is still uncertain as the rebels refuse to release him unless their demands are met.


Jagabandhu, the spokesperson of the group, said in a statement written in Telugu and sent to reporters here Wednesday: "We will not release Hikaka unless the government releases all the 30 persons we demanded."


While 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.


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