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One Italian freed after 11 days in captivity
Fate of other two hostages, including BJD MLA, unknown

Bhubaneswar, March 25
One of the two Italians abducted by Maoists, tourist Claudio Colangelo, was today released unharmed by ultras, 11 days after being taken hostage in Kandhamal district, while his compatriot was still in captivity.

A visibly relieved 61-year-old Colangelo, who was handed over to a group of media personnel by the Maoists, told reporters, "it was frightening".

Colangelo said he has spoken to his wife and his entire family has heaved a sigh of relief over his being freed by the left-wing extremists.

He denied reports that photographs of tribals were being taken by them when the Maoists captured them. "No photographs were being taken." On reports that police had warned them against entering the jungles, he said on the contrary, "we went in only after police allowed us".

He said the other Italian, 54-year-old Puri-based tour operator Paolo Bosusco, was with him in a Maoist camp this morning. "We have to pray for him and see that he too returns safely," he said.

Colangelo's release was confirmed by Director General of Police Manmohan Praharaj.

Kandhamal Superintendent of police J N Pankaj said Colangelo was handed over to journalists in Tanjingia area near Daringbadi town in the tribal-dominated Kandhamal district from where he was taken away on March 14.

He was taken to Sorada in Ganjam district from where the tourist is likely to be brought here.

Home Secretary U N Behera said Colangelo called him up and spoke to him soon after being released by the Maoists.

"Colangelo told me that he was set free and that he was in good health and unharmed," Behera said.

Bosusco was still being held captive by the Maoists, the home secretary said.

A top leader of the Odisha State Organising Committee of Maoists told a private TV channel that the release was made as a goodwill gesture.

Colangelo said, "They have treated us the best they could. I don't want to get into politics ... I leave it to the professionals." He said he and Bosusco were bathing in a river when four persons came and seized them.

There was, however, no information on tribal BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka who was abducted by armed Maoists near Toyaput in Koraput district in early hours yesterday at Laxmipur while returning home from Koraput.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik hoped that the abductors of the 37-year-old, first time legislator, would get in touch soon so that the government could start discussion on his release.

DIG (Southern Range), R K Sharma said, Colangelo was resting as he was tired at Sorada in Ganjam district.

The other Italian still held captive by the abductors was also in good health, he said.

Colangelo said, "It was frightening. Today finally there was a solution. Let us hope Paulo will be released very soon." The two Italians were taken hostage by the Maoists while trekking in the forest areas in Daringbadi in Kandhamal district.

The release came a day after talks between the Maoist and the Odisha government negotiators to end the hostage crisis were suspended with the Maoist mediators BD Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty quitting after the kidnap of the BJD MLA in Koraput district yesterday.

Appeals had been made by the Chief Minister, the Maoist mediators and members of the Odisha assembly for the release of the Italians.

The abductors of the Italians had made 13 demands for their release including release of some rebels like Subhashree Das, wife of top Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda, and halt to anti-Maoist operations by security forces. PTI

Victim recounts nightmare

It was frightening and a painful experience. We got entangled in the conflict between the government and Maoists. We had little knowledge about the Maoist problem in the region. I will be scared to enter this jungle (in Kandhamal) again.

Claudio Colangelo, Italian tourist

a Sigh of relief

  • Colangelo said he spoke to his wife and the family has heaved a sigh of relief
  • Denies reports that photographs of tribals were being taken by them when the Maoists captured them
  • Says they went to jungle only after police allowed them
  • The other Italian, 54-year-old Puri-based tour operator, Paolo Bosusco, was with him in a Maoist camp on Sunday morning

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