BHUBANESWAR: Extending their deadline to Tuesday, the Maoists holding Biju Janata Dal legislator Jhina Hikaka Saturday demanded unconditional release of five more people from Odisha jails in order to secure his release. The government said it was ready to address the demands of another group of Maoists holding an Italian as hostage.
The chances of Italian tour operator Bosusco Paolo's release brightened as the government said it had come into some agreement with the rebels' backed mediators.
The response from the abductors of the legislator came two days after Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announced the names of 27 people, including eight Maoists, to be released in exchange for the lawmaker and the Italian.
'Jagabandhu', who claimed himself as a leader of the Andhra-Odisha border special zonal committee, in an audio message to some journalists said the government must release five more people in addition to the 27.
The rebel leader also named the people to be released unconditionally by the government. "We have extended the deadline to April 10. If they are not released the government will see our next step," he said.
The rebels, who abducted Hikaka from Koraput district March 24, had earlier set a Saturday evening deadline for the government to decide on their demands.
The rebel leader also added that the health of the legislator was good and "will remain good until April 10".
Italian Paolo has been held hostage since March 14 by another group of rebels.
The group, led by Sabyasachi Panda, had earlier threatened to take an "extreme step" if the government did not release more people by Tuesday. Panda had made the announcement Friday in an audio message which was aired by some local television channels.
Home Secretary U.N. Behera said that to secure the release of Paolo the government had come into some agreement with the rebels' backed mediators on the various issues raised by the Maoists.
The government also announced to facilitate the release of five of the total six people the rebels had named, Behera told IANS.
He also said that the rebels' backed mediators and the officials represented by the government had jointly appealed to the Maoists to release the Italian.