Patna: The suspense over the release of three Bihar policemen abducted by Maoists deepened Sunday evening with police saying that there was information that they had not been freed. Local media earlier claimed that the hostage crisis had ended.
An abducted policeman`s wife told reporters earlier in the day that Maoists had informed her that her husband had been released but police refused to confirm the development.
Additional Director General of Police (Headquarters) PK Thakur told newspersons here that there was no information about the release of policemen. "We have information that the policemen have not yet been released," Thakur said.
He said that police have intensified combing operations to rescue the policemen. "We hope that the policemen will return safely," Thakur said.
The week-long hostage crisis took a new twist Sunday amid claims that Maoists had freed three abducted policemen after having killed a fourth one, Lucas Tete, two days ago.
The three policemen - Abhay Prasad Yadav, Rupesh Kumar Sinha and Ehsan Khan - were reportedly released by their captors in a jungle area between Lakhisarai and Jamui districts, local journalists quoted the family members of the kidnapped men as saying.
Director General of Police Neelmani declined to confirm the development.
"We are not in a position to say anything unless the three abducted men return to their homes," he said earlier Sunday.
Rajni Devi, wife of Abhay Kumar Yadav, told reporters at her residence in Begusarai district that a Maoist leader visited her house early Sunday and told her that her husband and his two colleagues had been let off.
"I am very happy and hoping that my husband will come home soon," Rajni Devi said.
The reports on the hostages` release Sunday came two days after the bullet-riddled body of Tete was found near a forest in Lakhisarai district. Tete hailed from a poor tribal family in Jharkhand`s Simdega district and is survived by his wife Pyari and three teenaged daughters.
Family members of Rupesh in Bettiah district and Ehsan`s family in Ranchi in Jharkhand were also eagerly waiting for the men to return.
"We are happy to hear that my son Ehsan and other policemen have been released by the Maoists. We are waiting to welcome him," Ehsan`s aged father Mohiuddin Khan said over telephone.
Maoist spokesperson Avinash Saturday claimed the three policemen were safe.
They were abducted by Maoists after a six-hour gunfight in Lakhisarai last Sunday.
The gunbattle left seven policemen dead and 10 injured. The Maoists claimed the gunfight was in retaliation for the killing of their leader Cherukuri Rajkumar alias Azad and a journalist on the night of July 1-2 in Andhra Pradesh.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar held an all-party meeting Saturday evening and said that the state government would hold talks with the Maoists on their demand for the release of eight jailed commanders in exchange for the three abducted policemen.
All the political parties appealed to the Maoists to release the three policemen, he said.