Maoist Menace
Maoist Menace
Bhubaneswar/New Delhi: India Sunday informed Italy of the efforts being made by the Odisha government for early release of two Italian nationals who were taken hostage by Maoists as External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna spoke to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik about the evolving situation.

Patnaik informed Krishna of the ongoing efforts being made by his government for an early release of the abducted Italian nationals.

“Two Italians have been abducted by Maoists. It happened Saturday,” Odisha Home Secretary U.N. Behera told reporters Sunday.

Maoists, in an audio message sent to the local media in the wee hours of Sunday, said the tourists were kidnapped at the border of Ganjam and communally sensitive Kandhamal district. They demanded that the government stop combing operations and fulfil their demands.

India was quick to get in touch with Italy over the incident which comes at a time when the ties between the two countries have come under stress due to the impasse over the killing of two Indian fishermen by two Italian marines off the Kerala coast over a month ago.

“India informs Italy of efforts being made by Odisha government for release of two kidnapped Italian nationals,” Syed Akbaruddin, spokesperson of the external affairs ministry, tweeted on the microblogging site.

“MEA is in contact with Italy to facilitate assistance through concerned Indian agencies in case involving 2 Italian tourists kidnapped in Odisha.”

Italian Consul Joel Melchiori also met Behra and voiced concern. “We are concerned about abduction but hopeful of their release. We will issue advisory to our nationals not to venture into such dangerous areas.”

Patnaik, who reviewed the situation with top police and administrative officials, has appealed to the Maoists to release the two Italians and hold a dialogue with the government.

Describing the abduction as unacceptable, Patnaik said the tourists should be released on humanitarian grounds. Patnaik is expected to hold another meeting of top officials later in the day to deal with the situation.

A Maoist calling himself Sabyasachi Panda said in the audio message, “We have imprisoned two Italian tourists.” He said they would be released only after the government stopped anti-rebel operations and initiated dialogue with them.

“If the government wants to see them free, it should halt combing operations. We also want the government to fulfil a charter of 13 demands it had promised last year,” he said.

Kandhamal district collector Rajesh Prabhakar Patil said the tourists were abducted from Daringbadi area of the district.

According to a local television channel report, both the tourists were men and were picked up by the rebels while roaming inside the forest, taking photographs of some tribal women.

Maoists are active in more than half of the state’s 30 districts and the district of Kandhamal is considered a stronghold. (IANS)