Two Italian tourists who were abducted by Maoists from the tribal-dominated Kandhamal-Ganjam border area in Odisha, were reportedly released near Tanjungia, according to local media reports. The two were kidnapped along with two other Indian associates while they were trekking on 18 March.
The duo reportedly released are Puri-based tour operator Paolo Bosusco and tourist Claudio Colangelo, according to an NDTV report. Local media reports said that the two Italians had been released at around 9.30 pm on Saturday. These reports cited an official in Kandhamal as saying that the two had been released near Tanjujia village in Daringbadi. (UPDATE: The original report on the release of the Italians, published on Orissadiary.com, appears to have been withdrawn, but the report was replicated by Italian news sites, and can be accessed here.)
There was otherwise no official confirmation of news of the release.
Even as negotiations were on to secure the safe release of the two Italians, a tribal MLA of the ruling BJD in Odisha was abducted by Maoists in Koraput district in the early hours of Saturday, police said. Following the kidnapping of the legisltor, the interlocutors suspended the talks saying that abductions and talks cannot go on simultaneously.
Members of the Kandhamaal tribals under the banner of Daringbadi Nagarika manch appeal for the release of two Italians abducted by Maoists in Kandamal forest area on Wednesday. PTI
Jhina Hikaka, legislator from Laxmipur, was returning home from Koraput when more than 50 armed rebels stopped his vehicle near Toyaput, Koraput Superintendent of Police Avinash Kumar said on Saturday.
While the personal security officer (PSO) and driver of the MLA were allowed to leave, Hikaka was taken away into the nearby forest, by the ultras at gunpoint, he said.
The abduction of the foreign tourists was claimed by Maoists through some private news channels earlier and it became public to the nation on 18 March. In their communication to TV channels, the Maoists claimed that the foreigners were taken hostage while allegedly taking objectionable photographs of tribals in interior areas despite a ban by the state government on such activities.
The Maoists had reportedly put forward a 13-point charter of demands for release of the hostages.
The conditions include halt to anti-Naxal operations, withdrawal of cases against tribal people lodged in jails ‘in the name of Maoists’ and implementation of the ‘agreement’ with the rebels for the release of the then collector of Malkangiri district in February last year.
Meanwhile, in the wake of abduction of an MLA and the ten-day-old Italian hostage crisis, Congress today said it is contemplating to bring a no-confidence motion against the Odisha government for its “failure” in tackling the Maoist menace.