Maoist leader Panda asks Odisha to respond to outfit's demands

Claudio Colangelo, one of the two Italians kidnapped in Kandhamal district of Odisha on March 14, was released by the Maoists late on Sunday afternoon.

The hostage crisis, however, remained unresolved as the other Italian national, Basusco Paolo, and Biju Janata Dal legislator Jhina Hikaka were still in the clutches of different factions of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).

The Maoists handed over Mr. Colangelo to a small team of newspersons in the jungles bordering Kandhamal and Ganjam districts. The journalists handed him over to the police at Sorada in Ganjam.

Talking to newspersons after his release, Mr. Colangelo said he wanted to return to his country to meet his family as soon as possible. He said the Maoists treated him very well, although it was very difficult to live inside the hilly areas with high temperature prevailing in the region.

While freeing Mr. Colangelo, top Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda said Mr. Paolo would be released only when the Orissa government showed a positive inclination to defuse the crisis by fulfilling the Maoists' legitimate demands.

The Maoists released the 61-year-old Italian a day after the talks for the release of the two foreigners were suspended in Bhubaneswar in the wake of the abduction of the BJD legislator from Koraput district early on Saturday.

Mr. Colangelo was brought to Bhubaneswar late in the evening. He will proceed to either Kolkata or Delhi along with officials of the Italian Consul-General from Kolkata who had been camping here for the past several days.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has appealed to the Maoists to release Mr. Paolo and Mr. Hikaka too.