Naveen Patnaik
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen PatnaikReuters

Odisha government has given in to the demands of the Maoists for the release of Italian hostage Paolo Bosusco. The government said on Saturday that it would release five of the six rebels Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda has demanded.

"The Maoists have sought release of six persons. The state government has decided to facilitate the release of five of the six," Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said in the state assembly. "I appeal again to the Odisha State Organising Committee of CPI (Maoist) headed by Panda to release the Italian national unharmed and immediately," he added.

Naveen Patnaik also said that B D Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty, who are negotiating the release of the Italian, said the rebels want the release of six people namely - Arati Majhi, Manohan Pradhan, Suka Nachika, Chakra Tadingi, Bijay Tadingi and Subhashree Das.

Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda had threatened to take extreme action on 54-year-old Italian if the government doesn't fulfill his demands within 96 hours.

Maoists abducted Paolo Bosusco along with another Italian Claudio Colangelo on March 14 while they were trekking in Kandhamal district. However, 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.