New twist to Italian hostage crisis in Odisha

Even as the Odisha government kept waiting for the Maoists' response to negotiations for the release of the abducted Biju Janata Dal legislator, Jhina Hikaka, the Italian hostage crisis took a new turn on Thursday, with the mediators threatening to pull out of talks if the government did not give its response to the Maoists' demands by Friday evening.

Talking to newspersons here, mediators B.D. Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty alleged that the State government had been indifferent to the Italian hostage crisis.

The rebels were now ready to release Italian tour operator Bosusco Paolo if the government agreed to fulfil three of the 13 demands raised by the kidnappers and negotiations on the remaining demands could be held after the Italian was freed, Mr. Mohanty said.

The three demands were: release of 18 innocent persons who were arrested for their alleged links with Maoists; release of 25 persons who were rearrested after their acquittal by courts; and action against police personnel responsible for custodial torture and deaths.

The negotiations for the release of Mr. Paolo came to a halt on Wednesday after Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said the government had received some additional demands from the mediators. “The demands are being examined and it may take a day or two,” Mr. Patnaik had said.