Maoists to release 3 cops; reject talks

A Maoist spokesman said the 3 policemen taken hostage would be freed by Sunday morning.

Jamui/Patna: A solution to the week-long hostage crisis in Bihar appeared to be in sight with a Maoist
leader claiming that the three kidnapped policemen will be
freed on Sunday, just hours after Chief Minister Nitish Kumar
invited the rebels for talks and appealed for their release on Saturday.

Avinash, a self-proclaimed spokesman for the Maoists,
claimed that the central committee of the ultra-left wing
group had decided to let off the three policemen held captives
by them by 8 AM on Sunday after it rejected the talks offer.

"The Maoists Central Committee met in jungles near Jamui
late this evening after the all party meeting chaired by Chief
Minister Nitish Kumar offered talks with us... we are not
going to get influenced by it," Avinash reportedly told some
local mediamen in Jamui.

He said the committee had decided to release the
hostages "unconditionally on humanitarian considerations."

However, there was no official confirmation to the
Maoist move to release Rupesh Kumar Sinha, Mohammad Ehsaan and
Abhay Yadav.

When contacted, Director General of Police Neelmani
said he was not aware of any information abbout this.

He, however, said the search operations would continue
in the districts of Jamui, Lakhisarai, Munger, Banka and
Kaimur for securing safe release of the hostages.

Avinash said he would like to make it clear that the
hostages will not be handed over either to police or mediamen.
"We will send them to their respective families safe and
sound," he said.

Under intense pressure to end the hostage crisis coming
just ahead of Assembly elections in the state, Kumar even
offered them safe passage for the talks after securing an all
party consensus.

A day after the bullet-riddled body of Lucas Tete, one
of the four abducted policemen, was found, Kumar said the all
party meeting convened by him also appealed to the Maoists to
release unharmed the three remaining hostages who the rebels
said were safe.

The Government offer for talks after a Maoist spokesman
called for an immediate dialogue came on a day when Police
arrested nine naxalites including two who were reported to be
involved in the kidnapping incident in Lakhisarai district on
Sunday. The arrest of the rebels came when combing operations
were expanded to fresh areas in Munger district.

"I am personally ready for holding talks with the
Maoists. We guarantee providing full security and safe
passage to Maoist representatives irrespective of the outcome.
No police action will be taken, "Kumar told reporters after
an all party meeting here. "We want face-to-face talks with

The Maoists are demanding that eight of their arrested
cadres be freed in exchange for the release of the hostages.

Kumar said he had come across media reports that a
person called Avinash claiming to be a spokesman of the
Maoists had asked for talks.

"But can the talks take place over phone? It is
impossible to know their grievances unless they come forward
for negotiations," Kumar said.

He said representatives from political parties would
also be present during the talks.

Avinash earlier in the day rang up media offices
including PTI and said the three abducted policemen were safe
and demanded the Bihar government immediately halt operations
and call for talks.

Avinash said the rebels would provide an audio CD
with the voices of the three policemen.

However, he said time was running out and the state
government should immediately hold talks for the release of
the three, he said.

"We want the state government should halt the operations
and hurry to hold talks for securing the safe
release of the three hostages," he said.

In Jamui district, police sources said that two
Naxalites including Pinki Yadav were apprehended in Jamui
town this morning when they were speaking to their colleagues
from a telephone booth. They were beleived to be involved
in the abduction of the policemen.

Seven suspected ultras were also arrested during
intensified search in Munger district by security forces, a
top police official said.

On reports that the mastermind of the encounter in
which the Maoists killed seven policemen and looted around 35
rifles has been arrested, Director General of Police (DGP)
Neelmani told PTI "We have no information about it".

"The area of combing has been further expanded to the
districts of Banka, Kaimur and fresh hilly and forest areas
in Munger, Jamui and Lakhisarai districts," he said.

The body of kidnapped assistant sub-inspector of the
Bihar Military Police ASI Lucas Tete was found at the Simra
Tari Sringirishi dam in Kajra police station area, about 150
km from Patna, yesterday.