Naveen Patnaik
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen PatnaikReuters

Italian national Paolo Basusco, who has been in Maoists' captivity for over three weeks, is expected to be released soon as the Odisha government and the rebels have reached agreement.

The breakthrough in the negotiation came after the Odisha government agreed to release five of the six rebels the Odisha State Organising Committee of CPI (Maoist) headed by Sabyasachi Panda has demanded.

"We have reached an agreement and concluded the fortnight-long negotiations with mediators nominated by CPI (Maoist) for the release of Italian Paolo Bosusco," Home Secretary U N Behera told reporters.

The Home Secretary, who led the three-member negotiators, added that the joint statement was signed by both the parties (government and rebels).

Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda had earlier threatened to take extreme action on 54-year-old Italian if the government doesn't fulfill his demands within 96 hours. He had demanded the release of six people namely - Arati Majhi, Manohan Pradhan, Suka Nachika, Chakra Tadingi, Bijay Tadingi and Subhashree Das.

Maoists 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.

Meanwhile, the Maoist group headed by Ramakrishnan, who have abducted Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MLA Jhina Hikaka, has issued a fresh ultimatum through an audio tape on Saturday. They have demanded the release of five more rebels by April 10 for the release of the BJD MLA. The earlier deadline was Saturday but it has been extended to April 10.

The Odisha government had earlier agreed to release 23 rebels in return for the release of Hikaka but the Maoists rejected the swap proposal. The rebels have 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 27 prisoners to secure the release of the MLA and an Italian. They feel that the decision of the government to release the rebels embolden them to resort to such activities in the future.