Maoists on Sunday claimed to have released the three Bihar policemen taken hostage a week back but the State government said it had no information as the agonizing wait for their families continued.

“The search has been intensified as we have to ensure safe release of the hostages,” Additional Director General of Police (Headquarters) P.K. Thakur told PTI.

“We do not depend on the media reports that showed Maoists claiming to have released the cops,” he said.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar also said that he had no knowledge about the release of the hostages. His comments followed an unsubstantiated claim by Maoists to some local media offices that they had released the three cops.

Local TV channels in Jamui quoting Maoist sources said that the policemen had been released in Belhar forest on the border of Banka and Jamui.

According to footage beamed on a local channel, a self-proclaimed Maoist leader identifying himself as ‘Kishenji’ met family members of one of the hostages, Abhay Prasad Yadav, in the wee hours of Sunday and assured them that he would be home soon.

“We have alerted the Superintendents of Police of these districts, but not a single hostage has been located anywhere,” Director General of Police Neelmani and IG (Operation) K.S. Dwivedi, overseeing the combing operation in the districts of Munger, Jamui, Lakhisarai, Banka and Kaimur, said.

The area of search operation concentrated mostly in the hills and forests of the districts of Banka, Jamui, Munger, Lakhisarai and Kaimur, Mr. Dwivedi said, adding CoBRA battalion of CRPF, SAP, BMP and STF was engaged in a “meticulously planned search.”

A solution to the week-long hostage crisis in the State appeared to have emerged with a Maoist leader last night claiming that the three kidnapped policemen — Rupesh Kumar Sinha, Mohammad Ehsaan and Abhay Yadav — would be freed by 8 a.m. Sunday. They had earlier killed one of the captives, Lucal Tete. His body was found on Friday.