Bhubaneswar: Maoists holding an Italian hostage said on Friday talks to free the kidnapped tour guide were a farce and threatened to take “an extreme step” unless the government releases a group of imprisoned rebels within four days.
The leftist fighters from Odisha did not specify what action they would take if their demands were not met but said they were not ready to release Paolo Bosusco, the Italian taken hostage three weeks ago.
“If the demands are not fulfilled we will be forced to take extreme step,” rebel leader Sabyasachi Panda said in an audio message aired on local TV stations, giving a 96 hour deadline.
An Italian foreign ministry spokesman said Rome was “concerned” at the news but had no further comment.
On Thursday, the Odisha government said it would facilitate the release of 27 prisoners, including Panda’s wife, in exchange for Bosusco’s freedom and that of another hostage.
However, the list did not included the names of several prisoners the Maoists want released.
Bosusco was seized in Odisha, along with another Italian, Claudio Colangelo, on 14 March, in what is believed to be the first time the rebels have targeted foreigners. Colangelo was handed to a group of reporters on 25 March.
The fighters said they took the Italians because they were taking photographs of indigenous tribeswomen bathing in a river, an allegation Colangelo denied after his release.
On 24 March, another group of Maoists kidnapped Jhina Hikaka, a MLA, adding to the tension.
The rebels are insisting the government fulfill a total of 13 demands including an end to tourism in sensitive areas of the state and an end to police operations against them.