Italian hostage Paolo Bosusco (54) was finally freed by the Maoists on Thursday after keeping him in captivity for 29 days.
The Maoists headed by Sabyasachi Panda abducted Paolo Bosusco along with another Italian Claudio Colangelo on March 14 while they were trekking in Kandhamal district. Colangelo was released on March 25 as a goodwill gesture.
Sources said that the Maoists handed over Bosusco olo to their mediator Dandapani Mohanty and some journalists in the forests of Kandhamal district.
Expressing his love for Odisha, Bosusco told reporters that he was happy to be a free man. He added that he was tired and wanted some rest.
The release came a few days after the Odisha government released Subhashree Panda's wife, who was arrested in connection with the 2003 Gudari police station shootout. Mrs Panda, one of the five people the government had agreed to free in exchange for the release of Paolo, was freed from Gunupur jail on Tuesday after a fast-track court acquitted her in the 2003 shootout case for lack of evidence.
Sabyasachi Panda had earlier said in an audio message that Paolo would be released through a 'democratic process'.
BJD MLA Still in Captivity
However, no news is being heard of Biju Janata Dal (BJD) Jhina Hikaka, who was abducted by the Maoist group headed by Ramakrishnan.
The Maoists had issued a fresh ultimatum through an audio tape on Saturday to free all the 28 prisoners they demanded by Tuesday in exchange for BJD MLA release. They said that they would hand over the MLA to his wife in the presence of the two Naxal-nominated mediators - BD Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty.
The Odisha government had agreed to release 23 rebels in exchange for the release of Hikaka but the Maoists rejected the swap proposal. The rebels demanded the release of Maoists' top cadre Chenda Bhushanam alias Ghasi and four others namely Gananath Patra, Suna Pangi, Singa Nachika and Walsi Wadeka. Ghasi, who has Rs 10 lakh reward on his head, was arrested in 2011.
However, sources said that central paramilitary forces engaged in anti-Maoist operations are not happy with decision of the Odisha government to release prisoners to secure the release of the hostages. They feel that the decision of the government to release the rebels could embolden them to resort to such activities in the future.
The Odisha government is in a fix with various security forces threatening to halt the ongoing anti-Naxal operations across the state if the government releases the hardcore extremists to end the hostage crisis.