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Apr 03, 2012 at 08:41am IST

Odisha: Talks resume as the hostage crisis deepens

New Delhi: Odisha government on Monday resumed talks with negotiators to end the hostage crisis after Naxal leader Sabyasachi Panda issued an ultimatum, threatening to kill Italian tourist Bosusco Paulo if the Naveen Patnaik government fails to fulfill their demands.

Panda on Monday released a fresh audio tape. He said that the Odisha government had not made it clear as to what demands they had agreed to meet.

ALSO SEE Odisha: Maoists threaten to kill Italian hostage

Panda further said, "There will be dire consequences if the Odisha government makes unnecessary delays in fulfilling our demands. We have information that the government is planning to launch a police operation against us. We will not release the hostage till the government clarifies which of our demands have been met. All our leaders who are in jail including Subhasree Panda must be released immediately.'

State Home Secretary UN Behera said that after verifying the tape with the negotiators, the government has resumed talks.

"We have received demands made by Mr Sabyasachi Panda, the Secretary of the Odisha State Organising Committee of the CPI(Maoist). So, we wanted to verify it with the mediators," Behera said.

The mediators were again invited to the state guest house on Monday where three negotiators from the state's side and two mediators representing Maoists held talks, resuming the exercise after a two-day break.

"However, the talks will not be held on Tuesday as I have to attend a programme at Jamshedpur," BD Sharma, one of the mediators said adding the talks could again resume on Wednesday.

The state government promptly responded to Panda's statement in which he threatned to eliminate Paolo Basusco, the Italian national taken hostage, if there was any attempt to launch an offensive to release him.

Though the Maoists had on March 25 released Claudio Colangelo, Basusco continued to remain in the ultras' captivity. The duo were abducted from Kandhamal-Ganjam district border on March 14.

Besides his wife, Panda demanded the release of Arati Majhi, Kamala Kanta Sethi, Jonesh Pradhan, Sujatha, Suka Nachika and Gananath Patra.

Supporting Panda's charge, Maoist-nominated mediator Dandapani Mohanty accused the state government of preparing an offensive against the ultras though the negotiations are on.

“The police is carrying out undercover operations.. I have heard that UAVs have been spotted in the area. They have increased their presence in the area and they have shut down transmission from the telephone towers in the area. This audio clip is merely a response to all these measures,” he said.

"The government will harm itself if it starts any operation," Mohanty said adding they (government) have expedited intelligence network in Kandhamal and Ganjam districts and made telephone towers defunct in the area as preparations for an operation.

"It is a heinous act on the part of the government to prepare for an offensive while discussion has not ended," Mohanty said.

Sharma also raised questions on the state government's "examination" on the Maoists' demands for last one week. He, however, expressed optimism about a peaceful solution to the hostage crisis.

(With additional)