The whereabouts of the two Italian tourists, who have been kidnapped by Maoists from Daringbari area of Odisha’s Kandhamal district was not known till Sunday afternoon.

The kidnappers have demanded that they would release the tourist duo only after Naveen Patnaik government gives an assurance to fulfill their demands that include halting of combing operations by security forces in the State.

The two tourists- Paulo Bosusco and Claudio Colengelo were taken hostage from Daringbadi area on March 14 while taking photographs of the locals in a tribal hamlet. They had reached Daringbadi on March 12 by traveling from Puri alongwith three other persons including the driver of the vehicle in which they travelled, and Santosh Moharana and Kartik Parida of Puri. The driver had returned from Daringbadi on March 12 itself and the rest four had stayed back. Moharana and Parida were released by the Maoists on Saturday evening. The duo reached their hometown Puri this morning.

According to R.K. Sharma, Deputy Inspector General (Southern Range), Moharana and Parida had said that the Maoists had told them that they would not cause any physical harm to the Italian tourists.

Till Sunday afternoon, the State Government had not reacted to the Maoist demand for a halt on the combing operation.

Other demands of the Maoists include release of tribal people who had been put behind bars for their alleged links with the Maoists. The State government then, had agreed to fulfill these demands of the Maoists to ensure the safe release of R. Vineel Krishna, the then Collector of Malkangiri in February last year.

Meanwhile Dandapani Mohanty, who acted as an interlocutor to facilitate the release of Vineel Krishna appealed to the Maoists they should not cause any harm to the foreign tourists and wait for the government’s response. Mr. Mohanty also urged the State Government to withdraw paramilitary forces from the tribal areas of the State and also initiate steps for the release of several activists including Gananath Patra from jail.

Our Special Correspondent adds:

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Sunday appealed to the Maoists to release the two Italian tourists whom they had kidnapped from Daringbadi area in this Maoist infested district on March 14.

The Chief Minister said that the Left wing extremists should release the two tourists on humanitarian grounds.

Condemning the abduction of the tourists, he said that such an incident cannot be accepted in a civilized society. According to a press release issued by the Chief Minister’s office, the State government had apprised the Union Home and External Affairs Ministries about the incident.

Mr. Patnaik issued the appeal after he reviewed the situation at a high level meeting held at the State Secretariat in Bhubaneswar earlier in the day. Among others who had attended the meeting were Chief Secretary B.K. Patnaik, State Director General of Police Manmohan Praharaj, Secretary of the Home Department, and other senior administration and police officials.