Maoists on Monday night named three negotiators to talk to the Odisha government on the Italian hostage crisis even as they set a fresh 24-hour deadline for acceptance of 13 demands including withdrawal of cases against the ultras.
Responding to Odisha government's offer for talks to end the five-day long hostage crisis, the left-wing extremists named Narayan Sanyal, Politburo member of Communist Party of India-Maoist currently lodged in Giridih jail, and civil rights activists Dandapani Mohanty and Biswapriya Kanungo as their representatives.
"Three of us have been nominated by the kidnappers to hold negotiation with Odisha government for safe release of the two Italian hostages," said Mohanty, who was also one of the three mediators during talks with the government after abduction of the then Malkangiri collector last year.
The names of the negotiators chosen by Maoists had been conveyed through the media and now the state government's response was awaited, Mohanty, convenor of Jana Adhikar Manch, said.
The development was seen as a positive sign towards resolution of the crisis since Puri-based tour operator Paolo Bosusco and Italian tourist Claudio Colangelo were abducted while trekking in Kandhamal on March 14.
Selection of mediators came shortly after Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik asked the abductors to nominate their representatives without any further delay and announced halt
to coercive action by security personnel if Maoists stop violence.
Maoists have extended their deadline, which ended on Monday, until Tuesday evening for acceptance of their demands including immediate halt to combing operations by security forces and release of their leaders and some tribals, said Mohanty.
Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi spoke to his India ncounterpart S M Krishna who assured him that the Odisha government was taking all steps to secure their early release.
On his part Patnaik made a fresh appeal to the Maoists to release the hostages immediately and see that they are unharmed.