Bhubaneshwar: Maoists released one Italian hostage on Sunday, raising hopes of an end to the 12-day old crisis that has engulfed the Odisha government. The released hostage, Claudia Colangelo, was abducted by the Maoists led by Sabyasachi Panda on March 14 along with another Italian Bosusco Paolo and two Indians.
The 61-year-old Colangelo, who was not keeping well, was handed over to a group of three journalists near Kandhamal. The Maoists also climbed down from their 13 demands for the release of the abducted Italians and have put forward just two conditions.
The journalists took Colangelo to the Surada Police Station and handed him over to the police. Kandhamal Superintendent of Police Jai Narayan Pankaj said that police would ascertain the details from Colangelo after which he would be handed over to the Italian Embassy.
Panda did not release Paolo and demanded that five Maoist leaders including his wife, Subhashree Panda, be released and actions be taken against police officers who are charged with rape, custodial deaths and violence against tribals and villagers.
Maoist negotiators engaged to end the Italian hostage crisis - BD Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty - expressed hope that the crisis would end soon and Paolo would also be released. Earlier, both Sharma and Mohanty had pulled out of the negotiations after the rebels abducted BJD MLA from Laxmipur, Jhina Hikaka on Saturday.
"We are on the neutral side. We have only received information of the release. We do not know about any proposals from them (Maoists)," Mohanty said. He added that the negotiators were waiting for a formal request from Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to resume talks.
The four were taken hostage by Maoists on March 14 from Surada Police Station area which comes under the Ganjam District bordering Kandhamal. The two Indians were released soon after they were abducted.
Paolo had been staying in Puri for the last 19 years, running an adventure tourism agency.
Even as the Odisha government had been trying to negotiate with the Maoists to secure the release of the two Italians, the abduction of Jhina Hikaka, from Toyaput in Koraput district on Saturday, threatened to derail the negotiations.
The abduction of the Italians and the BJD MLA is also seen as a fight between two groups of Maoists. While the Italians were kidnapped by Sabyasachi Panda, who has ruled the jungles of Odisha for two decades, Jhina Hikaka has been reportedly taken hostage by the Andhra Odisha Border Zonal Committee to probably counter Panda's move and expose his limited control.