The abducted Italian tour operator may soon be released, now that talks with Maoists have ended with the Odisha government agreeing to facilitate the release of five persons from jail.

Addressing a joint press conference, three officials of the State government and two mediators, B.D. Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty, said they had agreed to reach an agreement. “We have reached an agreement and concluded the negotiations with the mediators nominated by CPI(Maoist) for the release of

Mr. Bosusco Paolo,” who had been kidnapped from Kandhamal district on March 14, Home Secretary U.N. Behera said.

The mediators reiterated their appeal to Maoists to release him without delay and in good health.

In a joint statement, they said that after several rounds of discussions, the mediators had given six names — Arati Majhi, Manmohan Pradhan, Suka Nachika, Chakra Tadingi, Bijay Tadingi and Subhashree Das. The government would take legal steps to facilitate the release of five of them.

The sixth person, according to informed sources, is Manmohan Pradhan,

Earlier, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik made a statement in the Assembly that the government had decided to release five of the six persons.

On Friday, the Odisha State Organising Committee of the CPI (Maoist) had threatened that it would take the extreme step against Mr. Paolo if its demands were not met within 96 hours.

In another development, the Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) of the CPI (Maoist), which has been holding Biju Janata Dal legislator Jhina Hikaka captive since March 24, demanded the release of five more persons, while extending its deadline till April 10.

The five are Chheda Bhushanam alias Ghasi, Gananath Patra, Suna Pangi, Singa Nachika and Valsi Wadeka.

On Thursday, Mr. Patnaik said his government would free 23 persons for the release of Mr. Hikaka, and of another four persons for the release of Mr. Paolo.

Of the 23 persons in the case of Mr. Hikaka, 15 were members of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha and eight were Maoists, the government said.

The AOBSZC, however, claimed that the list included the names of only two Maoists.

Another Italian Claudio Colangelo, who was also kidnapped along with Mr. Paolo, was released by the Maoists on March 25.