Italian tour operator Bosusco Paolo was finally released by the Odisha State Organising Committee of the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist) in Kandhamal district on Thursday morning.

Secretary of the State unit of the party Sabyasachi Panda handed over custody of Mr. Paolo to Dandapani Mohanty, one of the mediators who held talks with the Naveen Patnaik government for the Italian citizen's release, near Raikia in Kandhamal at 5 am.

Mr. Mohanty drove down to the city from Kandhamal and handed over custody of Mr. Paolo to the State government in the afternoon.

While releasing Mr. Paolo in the presence of a local television channel team, Mr. Panda expressed the hope that the State government would honour its commitments and fulfil the Maoists' demands, including the release of several ‘innocent' tribals, Mr. Mohanty said.

Relief visible

Relief was clearly visible on his face as Mr. Paolo came out of one of the rooms on the first-floor of the two-storey State Guest House building and waved to journalists waiting on the lawns below.

Mr. Paolo told the journalists that the Maoists treated him well during his 29-day captivity.

Mr. Paolo, who had been living in the country for the past 22 years and running a travel agency in the coastal Odisha town of Puri, said he loved Odisha and its people.

Meets Italian envoy

He met Italian Ambassador Giacomo Sanfelice di Monteforte and Italian Consul-General Joel Melchiori, who were waiting in the city to receive him.

Mr. Panda on Thursday welcomed the steps taken by the Odisha government to fulfil the Maoists' demands and had hinted at an early release of Mr. Paolo.

On the other hand, the fate of Biju Janata Dal legislator Jhina Hikaka, who has been in the custody of Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee of the CPI(Maoist) since March 24, remained uncertain as the abductors had said they would not release him unless their demands were met.

Patnaik hails release

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik expressed satisfaction over Mr. Paolo's release and reiterated his appeal to the other group of Maoists to release the tribal legislator at the earliest.