Odisha begins dialogue to secure release of Italians

Bhubaneswar, March 22: The Odisha government Thursday began a dialogue with two interlocutors named by Maoists to secure the safe release of two Italians who have been held hostage by the rebels since March 14.

The meeting was taking place between the interlocutors B.D. Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty and three senior officials named by the state government at the state guest house here, a senior state official told IANS.

Meanwhile, Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda said his men were ready to release one of the hostages if the state accepts two of their demands before the start of negotiation.

In a telephonic message to selected media outlets, the rebel leader urged the government to release five ultras, including his wife Subhashree Panda, in exchange for one of the Italians.

The leader, who also calls himself ‘Sunil’, said he wants action against police and security personnel responsible for staged killings and rape in the state.

The Italians Bosusco Paolo, 54, and Claudio Colangelo, 61, were abducted from the border of Ganjam and communally sensitive Kandhamal district.

The rebels want the government to fulfil a charter of 13 demands including a ban on the visit of tourists to the tribal areas, halt on anti-Maoist operations, and release of several prisoners.

IANS