Two Italian tourists have been abducted by Maoists from the tribal-dominated Kandhamal-Ganjam border area in Odisha, said the police on Sunday, which is monitoring the situation closely.
"There is information about abduction of two persons by Maoists in Kandhamal district. Further details are awaited," Director General of police Manmohan Praharaj told PTI over phone.
Home Secretary U N Behera on Sunday confirmed the incident and said the abduction took place on Saturday night. Kandhamal District Collector R P Patil said the incident
was believed to have taken place in the bordering area of Kandhamal and Ganjam districts and the situation was being closely monitored though no detailed information was available immediately.
A senior police officer said the foreigners, who had visited the area on March 12 along with two others from Puri, were identified as Bosusco Paolo and Claudio Colangelo and one of them had been staying in Puri for about 10 years.
The abduction of the foreign tourists was claimed by Maoists through some private news channels around midnight on Sunday night, sources said. In their communication to the TV channels, the Maoists claimed that the foreigners were taken hostage while allegedly
taking objectionable photographs of tribals in interior areas despite a ban by the state government on such activities.
The Maoists have reportedly put forward a 13-point charter of demands for release of the hostages. The conditions include halt to anti-Naxal operations, withdrawal of cases against tribal people lodged in jails 'in the name of Maoists' and implementation of the 'agreement' with the rebels for the release of the then collector of Malkangiri district in February last year, the sources said.
Superintendent of police (Kandhamal) J N Pankaj said the two Italian tourists along with some tour operators from Puri had come to Daringibadi, a tourist spot in Kandhamal district on March 12, but the police had warned them against Maoist menace in the area.
"The visitors obliged and agreed not to go inside the area," the SP said, adding that the police were unaware of the movements of the tourists thereafter. "Before taking any step, we are waiting for details," said another police officer.
Dandapani Mohanty, Convener of the Jana Adhikar Manch, and one of the mediators who negotiated with the government for securing the release of the abducted Malkanagiri collector last year, has appealed to the Maoists not to set any deadline for fulfilment of their demands.
Mohanty has also appealed to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to immediately intervene in the matter. The Maoists had abducted the then Malkanagiri collector R Veenel Krishan along with a junior engineer from a remote area in Malkanagiri in February last year.
The two were released after the government arrived at an agreement with the three mediators, one from Odisha and two from Andhra Pradesh.