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Maoists want to exchange abducted MLA with 30 prisoners

Bhubaneswar: In a new twist to BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka`s hostage crisis in the state, Maoists on Sunday purportedly issued a fresh communication asking his wife to reach a village in Koraput district on April 10 along with 30 prisoners to pave way for the legislator`s release.

The letter, released to a section of the media by Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) of the Maoists, asked Hikaka`s wife Kaushalya to reach Balipeta in Naxal-hit Narayanpatna area.

The Maoists have asked her to reach the place along with 30 rebels, including 23 people whose release state government had decided to facilitate and seven more rebels.

The letter, bearing the name of a senior Maoist leader and addressed to the media, said the MLA`s wife should also be accompanied by the two Naxal-nominated mediators – B D Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty – engaged in the Italian hostage crisis and Koraput-based lawyer Nihar Patnaik.

One of the Maoist nominated mediators B D Sharma had meanwhile left the state capital for Delhi.

The Maoists said they would hand over the abducted 37- year-old Laxmipur MLA to them provided they do not bring along any police or intelligence officials.

When contacted, Hikaka`s wife said she was not aware of any communication from the abductors of his husband. "It must have been sent to the media," she said, appealing to the Maoists to release her husband unharmed and in good health.

The letter came a day after the Maoists in a message to the media extended the deadline for fulfilment of their demands till April 10. They had initially fixed April 5 as deadline and then extended it till April 7.

Though the Maoists had on April 7 demanded release of five more persons in addition to the 23 agreed by the state government, two more names were added on Sunday.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had earlier said that the government was examining the demand of the MLA`s abductors for release of five more persons.

The state government has agreed to facilitate release of 23 prisoners including 15 members of Naxal-backed Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha (CMAS) and eight Maoists.

Hikaka had been abducted in Koraput district while returning home at Laxmipur after attending a meeting in Koraput on March 24.

Lawyer Nihar Patnaik, who fights cases for Maoists, received a copy of the two-paged letter in Telugu script, but he said the red rebels had not contacted him over this matter.

Meanwhile, the release of Italian national Paolo Bosusco, abducted over three weeks ago, on Sunday ran into rough weather with the Maoists asking the state government to first "clarify" how many ultras would be set free and how many of its 13 demands would be met.

Odisha State Organising Committee secretary Sabyasachi Panda in an audio message to the media said they had demanded release of seven persons and the government had earlier agreed to release six but on April 7 said it would free only five.

"This has created suspicion and the government should make it clear how many are going to be released along with their names," Panda said and demanded that the government clarify how many of his group`s 13 demands were accepted.

Following the Maoist leader`s message, Chief Minister Patnaik held an emergency meeting here. "There seems to be some confusion. Government negotiators and Maoist-appointed mediators had come to a clear conclusion on Saturday. I do hope these will be cleared by them soon," Patnaik said after the meeting.

He said the Italian Ambassador had again called him to enquire about Bosusco.

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