Efforts intensified to secure release of Odisha hostages

Bhubaneswar, March 26: Intensifying efforts to secure the release of the second Italian and a legislator held captive by Maoists, officials representing the Odisha government held talks with two rebel-named mediators for several hours here Monday.

The government said the abducted Italian and the lawmaker are safe and in good health.

“The talks started on positive notes. We were discussing on all 13 Maoists demands,” a senior state official who was part of the negotiation process told IANS.

The guerrillas abducted Italians Bosusco Paolo, 54, and Claudio Colangelo, 61, from a forested area on the border of the state’s Ganjam and Kandhamal districts March 14.

The rebels also kidnapped ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) legislator and a popular tribal leader Jhina Hikaka, 37, in Koraput district Saturday.

The talks were halted on Saturday after the Maoist-backed mediators withdrew blaming both the state government and Maoists for the disruption in negotiations.

The talks were resumed Monday after the guerrillas released Colangelo to a group of journalists Sunday in a ‘goodwill gesture’ but kept hostage Bosusco Paolo.

The rebels have set several demands for the release of the two hostages, including a ban on the visit of tourists to the tribal areas, halt to anti-Maoist operations, and release of several prisoners.

–Indo-Asian news Service

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IANS