BHUBANESWAR: Maoists on Sunday released Italian tourist Claudio Colangelo, raising hopes of an early resolution to the hostage crisis. Claudio was handed over to a team of three journalists in a Maoist camp deep in the forests of Kandhamal.
Claudio walked free, in shorts and a yellow tee, 11 days after he was abducted by the ultras from Kandhamal-Ganjam border near Tanjingia between Daringibadi and Bamunigaon. His tour guide, Paolo Bosusco, though continues to be in captivity of the rebels. “I am happy to be released but sad that my friend Paolo is still in their custody. I hope he is released soon,” he said describing the last 11 days as “frightening.” Claudio was handed over to the CRPF before police eventually took custody of him.
As the State Government heaved a sigh of relief over positive signs on the fate of the captives, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik expressed happiness after the release of Claudio. “I am relieved that they have freed one of the hostages and hope for early release of the second Italian,” he said.
Naveen also announced that the two Maoist negotiators, Dr B D Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty, will continue as interlocutors for release of Paolo. The peace talks had been suspended on Saturday after abduction of Laxmipur MLA Jhina Hikaka by the Red rebels in Koraput.
The Odisha State Organisation Committee of CPI (Maoist) has urged the State Government to continue the negotiations. “We have released one of the two Italians as a goodwill gesture, respecting sentiments of so many organisations seeking their release. No harm will be done to the other Italian and we urge the Government to continue the talks and consider two to three of our legitimate demands,” secretary of the State committee of the outlawed outfit Sabyasachi Panda said.
Soon after he was freed, Claudio spoke to his wife and other anxious family members over phone. External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and Italian Ambassador Giacomo Sanfelice also spoke to the tourist. He was immediately taken to the inspection bungalow at Sorada in Ganjam where he underwent a health check-up. His statement was then recorded by Ganjam SP Rajesh Pandit in the presence of DIG (Southern Range) R K Sharma.
“His statement has been recorded and he will be handed over to the Consul General of Italy Joe Melchiori,” DGP Manmohan Praharaj said. Later, he was driven from Sorada in a piloted vehicle. Claudio reached Bhubaneswar at 11.05 pm. Since his visa has expired, he is expected to be escorted to Delhi by the Embassy officials for necessary formalities on Monday.
Shaken as he was, Claudio said he was treated well by the Maoists in their camp and they did their best to give him all that he needed. He and his guide Paolo were also given chess board to pass time in captivity.