Bhubaneswar: A day after the two mediators quit talks, Maoists in Odisha on Sunday freed one of the two Italian hostages.
Maoists freed Claudio Colangelo (61) unharmed but there was no word on the second abducted Italian Bosusco Paolo (54) and BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka (37).
Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda, who is named as `Sunil`, handed over Claudio Colangelo to a selected group of media persons somewhere in the district of Kandhamal. Panda said one of the two
Italian hostages has been freed as a "goodwill gesture" and to
"carry their message to the Odisha government".
The Maoists released the Italian following "appeal from people and a cross section of society".
The development came hours after state Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik held a meeting of top state police and administrative officials on the hostage crisis.
Meanwhile, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen
Patnaik said his government would like to resume negotiation with the Maoist-nominated mediators to secure release of the other Italian still held captive by the ultras.
Patnaik expressed happiness at the release of one of the
two Italians, 61-year-old Claudio Colangelo.
The CM had requested the Maoists to name new persons to re-start the negotiations after the mediators quit the talks.
The guerillas had abducted the two Italians from a forested area on the border of state`s Ganjam and Kandhamal district on March 14.
On Saturday, the rebels kidnapped ruling BJD legislator and popular tribal leader Jhina Hikaka in Koraput district.
The kidnapping of Hikaka took place even as the government was holding dialogue with the rebels through their mediators for the release of the Italians.
Social activist Dandapani Mohanty and tribal expert BD Sharma, who were named by the rebels to mediate, withdrew from negotiation after holding dialogue with the three officials represented by the government for three days. They blamed both the government and the Maoists for the disruption in talks.
The two told reporters that after the abduction of the Italian tourists, the state committee of the banned Communist Party of India-Maoist declared a ceasefire.
The government also promised that there would be no coercive action by the security forces as long as there is no violence from the Maoists.
"But the fact is that while we are discussing in Bhubaneswar, unfortunate incidents of disrupting peace continued in many parts of the state," they said. "We feel that this is a mockery of peaceful talks and negotiations."
The rebels have set 13 demands for the release of all hostages including a ban on the visit of tourists to the tribal areas, halt to anti-Maoist operations, and release of several prisoners.
(With IANS inputs)