India Maoists free one Italian tourist

Claudio Colangelo speaks to the media shortly after being released by his captors on March 25, 2012.

Story highlights

  • Italian tourist Claudio Colangelo was freed Sunday
  • Another Italian, Bosusco Paolo, remains hostage
  • Maoists have set 13 demands
  • Rebels say they have been fighting for India's dispossessed
Maoist insurgents have released one of the two Italians held hostage in eastern India since March 14, officials said Monday.
Claudio Colangelo was set free Sunday, but another Italian tourist, Bosusco Paolo, still remains in rebel custody, according to authorities in India's Orissa state where the two men were kidnapped almost two weeks ago.
Orissa's Kandhamal District Chief Rajesh Prabhakar Patil said talks between the government and the guerillas had been suspended after the abduction of a local legislator over the weekend.
He, however, expressed the hope that negotiations to secure the release of Paolo and the kidnapped legislator, Jhina Hikaka, would resume soon.
"We hope the crisis will be resolved in two to three days," Patil said.
It was not immediately clear whether the government had acceded to any of the 13 demands set by the left-wing insurgents in return for the Italian hostages.
Patil said the kidnappers probably just wanted to create an atmosphere conducive for resumption of talks that had been put off in the wake of the abduction of Hikaka.
As part of their demands, the Maoists want the government to pull its troops out of strongholds in Orissa and release fellow Maosists from jail.
Anti-Maoist operations, part of a decades-long conflict, have already been put on hold in Kandhamal, he added.
Maoist militants have been battling the Indian government in several eastern states since the late 1960s in an insurgency that has resulted in thousands of casualties. The group says it is fighting for the poor and the dispossessed.
Authorities have said they suspect the Maoists enjoy support not only in the poorest areas and in tribal communities, but also among youth and intellectuals.
In addition to targeting police, alleged police informers and people the Maoists call "class enemies," the insurgents also are believed to have carried out attacks roads, bridges, railways, and power and telecommunication networks.