New Delhi (CNN) -- Indian authorities offered to free 27 prisoners in return for the release of an Italian citizen and a local legislator held hostage by Maoist rebels in the eastern state of Orissa.
The chief minister of Orissa, Naveen Patnaik, appealed in a statement Wednesday to the left-wing insurgents to release the Italian Paolo Bosusco and the state lawmaker Jhina Hikaka immediately, requesting they be "unharmed and in good health."
Bosusco and another Italian tourist, Claudio Colangelo, were abducted in the province's Kandhamal district on March 14. Colangelo was set free 11 days later, but Bosusco has remained captive.
The guerillas also kidnapped Hikaka, a member of the state's legislative assembly.
Patnaik specified that 23 prisoners would be freed to secure Hikaka's release and the other four for Bosusco's.
The captors have set 13 demands, including the withdrawal of government troops from rebel strongholds in Orissa and the release of fellow Maoists and their supporters from jail.
Anti-rebel operations, part of a decades-long conflict, have already been put on hold in Kandhamal, officials said.
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.
The authorities have said they suspect the Maoists enjoy support not only in the poorest areas and in tribal communities, but also among youths and intellectuals.
In addition to targeting police, alleged police informers and "class enemies," the insurgents are believed to have carried out attacks on roads, bridges, railways, and power and telecommunication networks.
Indian authorities offered to free 27 prisoners in return for the release of an Italian citizen and a local legislator held hostage by Maoist rebels in the eastern state of Orissa.