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Apr 12, 2012 at 12:43pm IST

Odisha: Italian hostage Paolo Bosusco freed by Maoists

New Delhi: Italian hostage Paolo Bosusco was released by the Maoists on Thursday, 29 days after he was abducted along with his countryman Claudio Colangelo by the Naxals in Odisha's Kandhamal district.

External Affairs Minister SM Krishna has congratulated Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on the safe release of the Italian national, saying it enhances India's reputation as a safe destination. "I appreciate Naveen Patnaik's efforts," he said.

Bosusco (54) was handed over by the Maoists to their mediator Dandapani Mohanty and some journalists in the forest of tribal-dominated Kandhamal district bordering Gajapati and Ganjam, official sources said.

The Italian national was brought to the state capital in the company of mediapersons and Mohanty who, along with BD Sharma, negotiated with three Odisha government representatives for his release.

Saying that he loves Odisha very much, Bosusco told reporters, "I am happy being a free man now. I am tired and need some rest."

His release came a day after Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda in his audio message had said that he would free the abducted Italian if the government honoured its agreement signed with the negotiators. In the audio tape released by the Naxal leader, he claimed that the Italian tourist himself wanted the government to release one tribal woman before he is freed.

The government has agreed to free 27 jailed cadres.

Panda had said that if the government obeys their pact, then the Italian hostage would soon be released.

This came after his wife Subhashree Panda was acquitted. Subhashree Panda was arrested and jailed in 2010 in connection with an encounter case.

Two Italian nationals Paolo Boscusco and Claudia Colangelo were taken hostage by the Naxals on March 14 from Surada Police Station area which comes under the Ganjam District bordering Kandhamal.

The 61-year-old Colangelo, who was not keeping well, was released on March 25 and was handed over to a group of three journalists near Kandhamal.

However, there was no word yet on BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka who has been held hostage by another faction of the Naxals in Odisha.

(With additional inputs from PTI)

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