A man walks under a barricade pole installed to check passing vehicles by Indian forest officials at the remote district of Kandhamal
A man walks under a barricade pole installed to check passing vehicles by Indian forest officials at the remote district of Kandhamal Reuters

Maoist guerrillas who kidnapped two Italian nationals in the eastern Indian state of Orissa have yet to respond to the local government’s offer for negotiation, according to Indian media.

Orissa’s Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik described the kidnapping as a heinous crime.

The government is ready for any kind of negotiations under the law, but they should first release the two men, Patnaik said, according to BBC.

Indian media reported that the two Italians, Bosusco Paolo, a tour operator in Puri, and Claudio Colangelo, a tourist, were abducted by Maoists on Saturday while hiking along the Ganjam-Kandhamal border. Reportedly, the Italians were warned by local police to be vigilant since Maoists were known to operate in the heavily forested area.

Their Indian companions, a driver and cook, were released by the Maoists. The driver, Kartik Parida, and cook, identified as Santosh, are being interrogated by the local police.

The Indian Express newspaper reported that the Communist kidnappers have issued a 13-point list of demands in exchange for the freedom of the Italian citizens – these include the release of some of their compatriots from prison and the cessation of an offensive by state security forces against the Maoist insurgency in the region.

However, it is unclear what kind of deadline the kidnappers have established for their demands to be met.

Orissa’s home secretary U.N. Behera noted that his government is taking a wait-and-see approach with the abductors.

Since the government has made an offer of talks the deadline is understood to have been extended. A response from the kidnappers is awaited, he said.

Maoists told Indian TV that the Italians were seized after they took objectionable photographs of tribal peoples in the interior regions of Orissa – an act that it banned by the government.

Sabyasachi Panda, the organizing secretary of the state committee of the Communist Party of India-Maoist, said rebels in Orissa are seeking the establishment of an egalitarian society in India and the end of the repression of tribal people.

Meanwhile, Indian’s Ministry of External Affairs is keeping in touch with Italian authorities and has vowed they will do their utmost to free the hostages unharmed.

Italian Consul General Joel Melchiori was in the city of Bhubaneswar in Orissa to confer with local authorities over the kidnapping. Melchiori told Indian media he was “hopeful” for a quick resolution to the hostage crisis.

There was an appeal this morning. So we hope the groups which kidnapped the Italian tourists will accept the request of the government, he told BBC.

This is reportedly the first time that Maoists have kidnapped Westerners in Orissa state. India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has characterized Maoists – who are active in several eastern Indian states – as the biggest security threat facing the nation.

India and Italy are already embroiled in a diplomatic standoff following the arrest of two Italian marines last month for allegedly killing two Indian fisherman in the southern port city of Kochi.