No news of Italians abducted by Maoists
State Home Secretary U.N. Behera said the government was taking all necessary steps for the safe release of Bosusco Paolo, 54, and Claudio Colangelo, 61, who were kidnapped on March 14. The kidnapping came to light Saturday night.
Top police and administration officials held a series of meetings Sunday and Monday to find out ways to deal with the situation.
“We have so far not received any communication from them (Maoists),” Behera told IANS.
Asked if the government was conducting any search operation to locate the hostages or planning to halt anti-Maoist operation, a condition the rebels have set to start dialogue, Behera said: “I will not be able to tell you that”.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik Sunday said the government was open for talks with the rebels. He had also appealed the abductors to communicate with the government.
The government had earlier said the Italians were abducted Saturday at the border of Ganjam and the communally sensitive Kandhamal district.
However, the details came to light after two eyewitnesses, who had accompanied the Italians, narrated the incident before police Sunday.
According to them, Bosusco Paolo and Claudio Colangelo had gone along with two Indians, Santosh Moharana and Kartika Parida, both residents of Puri, to Kandhamal district March 12 on a four-day trekking trip.
On March 14 morning, about six to seven people came with guns when they were sitting near a rivulet. The rebels took the four to the forest after tying their hands and covering their eyes with a cloth.
The rebels released Kartik and Santosh March 16 but kept the Italians hostage.
Puri District Superintendent of Police Anup Kumar Sahu said the witnesses statements were recorded and a case was registered against the abductors.
Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda, in an audio message sent to local media early Sunday said the tourists were kidnapped after they were found taking ‘objectionable’ photographs of some tribal women near a rivulet.
They demanded that the government stop anti-Maoist combing operations and fulfil their demands.
The Maoist leader also said they had enough evidence that the tour operators bribed the administration to allow foreigners to visit the interior areas despite a ban.
The Maoists want the government to fulfil a charter of 13 demands including those it had promised last year for the safe release of the hostages.
The demands included halting of anti Maoist operation, scrapping of accords with MNCs for land transfer and projects, compensation for the families of Maoist sympathisers killed in police custody and release of about 600 prisoners.
The rebels also demanded release of all anti-displacement leaders who have been arrested for raising their voices against various industrial projects, including Posco and Vedanta.
The latest abduction appears to be the first case of foreigners being abducted by rebels in the state.
Maoists are active in more than half of the state’s 30 districts and the district of Kandhamal is considered a stronghold.