Bhubaneswar: Two Italian tourists in Odisha have been abducted by Maoists in Kandhamal district, an official said Sunday. This appears to be the first case of foreigners being abducted by rebels in the State.
“Two Italians have been abducted by Maoists. It happened Saturday,” state home secretary U.N. Behera told reporters on Sunday.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has called an emergency meeting of top state police and administrative officials to deal with the situation.
Maoists, in an audio message sent to a local reporter in the wee hours of Sunday, said the tourists were kidnapped at the border of Ganjam and communally sensitive Kandhamal district.
A Maoist calling himself Sabyasachi Panda said, “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,” the rebel leader said without elaborating the details.
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.