Bhubaneswar: In a major setback to the Odisha government, the Maoists on Friday rejected the swap offer of freeing 27 prisoners for releasing an Italian hostage and threatened to take the 'extreme step' if its demands were not met within 96 hours while the ultras maintaining silence over the fate of abducted BJD MLA who is in their captivity since March 24.

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In an audio message to a section of the media, top leader of the Maoist Odisha State Organising Committee Sabyasachi Panda said the list of prisoners proposed to be freed for securing the release of Italian Paolo Bosusco was unacceptable and gave a 96-hour ultimatum.

Panda had demanded immediate release of seven persons, including his wife Subhashree Das alias Mili Panda for Bosusco's release. But he said the government's list excluded many whose release had been demanded.

Subhashree's name figured in the list of four persons proposed to be freed by the government. Panda also sought a written agreement on fulfilment of the demands.

He described the state government's talks with Maoist-nominated negotiators B D Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty as a "farce" and said no clear-cut decision had been taken on the 13 demands made for the release of Bosusco.

Panda accused the state government of adopting delaying tactics and threatened to take the 'extreme step' if the demands were not met.

The ultimatum came a few hours after the government and Maoist mediators held talks on Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's announcement of the names of 27 persons, including eight Maoists, to be released in returning for freeing BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka and Bosusco.

Abducted MLA’s fate remain gloomy

Meanwhile, the abductors of 37-year-old Laxmipur MLA were yet to respond to the announcement of the names of prisoners to be freed.

Referring to the BJD legislator's abduction on March 24, Panda said the incident had raised several questions and the government's attention appeared to have shifted from securing the release of the Italian who was kidnapped on March 14.
   
The development came as a setback for the state government's efforts to secure the release of the Italian. Italian Ambassador Giacomo Sanfelice di Monteforte met Chief Secretary B K Patnaik after the fresh development.

The Chief Secretary and the Home Secretary said the fresh demand by Panda was being examined. Bosusco was abducted along with Claudio Colangelo by Maoists while they were trekking in Kandhamal district. While Colangelo was freed on March 25, Bosusco remained in captivity.
   
Meanwhile, the Maoist Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee holding Hikaka hostage was yet to respond to the state government's decision to release the prisoners. It has extended the deadline for fulfilment of its demands till Saturday.

A Maoist leader had telephoned a section of the media on Thursday saying the deadline, which was to end last evening, had been extended till the evening of April 7.

(JPN/Agencies)