Italians 'safe', Maoists extend deadline by 24 hours

Italians 'safe', Maoists extend deadline by 24 hours

Odisha government today said the two Italians taken hostage by Maoists in Kandhamal district were "safe", as the ultras extended the deadline for meeting their list of demands by another day and changed two of their negotiators.

"The deadline is extended by another 24 hours," a senior party leader of the Odisha State Organising Committee of Maoists told a private television channel on its 13-point demand. The Italians-- Puri-based tour operator Paolo Bosusco and tourist Claudio Colangelo-- were abducted while trekking in Kandhamal district on March 14.

"We have information that the two Italians abducted by the Maoists are safe and unharmed," Chief Secretary B K Patnaik told reporters after the six-day hostage crisis was reviewed at a high-level meeting here. The Maoists had last night nominated politburo member of CPI (Maoist) Narayan Sanyal, currently lodged in Giridih jail, and civil rights activists Dandapani Mohanty and Biswapriya Kanungo as negotiators.

However, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik voiced objection to Sanyal's choice as he was a lifer and was also undergoing jail terms for other offences, while Kanungo himself objected to taking part in the parleys. Following this, the Maoists named civil rights activist Prafulla Samantaray and social activist and retired bureaucrat B D Sharma as the new negotiators.

Samataray, has, however also objected to being named negotiator by the Maoists. "I doubt whether the government will agree to my nomination and I have no faith in the state government," he said.