Italians` abduction: Maoists yet to respond to negotiation offer

Last Updated: Monday, March 19, 2012 - 12:13

Bhubaneswar: Maoists, who took hostage two
Italians in Kandhamal district, were yet to respond on Monday to
the Odisha government`s offer of negotiations even as the
deadline set by the ultras was presumed to have been extended.

"The state government is yet to receive a response from
the abductors of the two Italians. The chief minister has made
it clear that we are open to any kind of negotiation under the
law," Home Secretary U N Behera said.

Though the deadline set by the abductors for their
13-point demands including immediate halt to combing
operations and release of some leaders and tribals ended last
evening, it was presumed to have been extended, a senior
official said.

Indicating that the government was adopting a wait and
watch approach, he said, "Since the government has made an
offer of talks the deadline is understood to have been
extended. A response from the kidnappers is awaited."

Though there were reports that combing operations in
Maoist-hit areas by the security forces had been halted, the
home secretary said no formal order has been issued for
stopping them.

The situation was being monitored constantly by Chief
Minister Naveen Patnaik and top officials to resolve the
hostage crisis and ensure their release, sources said.

The Italians, Bosusco Paolo, a tour operator in Puri and
tourist Claudio Colangelo, were trekking along the
Ganjam-Kandhamal border, when they were kidnapped by Maoists
on Saturday.

They had driven down from Puri and had entered a forested
area inspite of being warned by the Daringibadi police about
Maoists.

A driver and cook who were accompanying them and their
vehicle were released by the Maoists subsequently.

A report from Puri said that the driver, Kartik Parida,
and cook, Santosh, were being questioned by the police.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna had spoken to the
chief minister who briefed him on the efforts being made
to secure the release of the hostages.

The Ministry of External Affairs was in touch with Italy
and was keeping it informed about latest developments.

Italian Consul General Joel Melchiori was in Bhubaneswar
and had discussed the issue with Odisha authorities.

The Italian envoy had said that he was hopeful that the
kidnappers would accept the chief minister`s appeal to
release the hostages.

The Maoists told TV channels that the foreigners were
taken hostage for taking "objectionable" photographs of
tribals in interior areas despite a ban by the state
government on such activities.

The 13 demands put forward by the Maoists include halt
to anti-Maoist operations, withdrawal of cases against tribals
jailed on the charge of being Maoists and implementation of
the agreement struck with the rebels for the release of the
then collector of Malkangiri district in February last year.

PTI



First Published: Monday, March 19, 2012 - 12:05

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