Maoists reiterate demands to free second Italian

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The Italian still held captive by Maoists in Odisha is in good health, but the government should fulfill their demands - including banning tourist visits to tribal areas - to secure his release, the rebels said Monday, a day after freeing another Italian.

In an interview to local television channel OTV aired Monday, Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda who claimed responsibility for the March 14 abduction of both tourists said Italian Bosusco Paolo would be released only after the rebels feel the government is serious about their demands.

Saying Paolo was in good health, Panda assured he would not come to any harm.

Panda, who also calls himself 'Sunil', said his cadres on Sunday released Italian Claudio Colangelo on humanitarian ground and as a goodwill gesture following an appeal from a cross-section of society.

He said the rebels wanted to send a positive message by releasing one of the hostages and all the demands made by the rebels were genuine. Panda said he wants a ban on tourist visits to tribal areas.

"Foreigners or Indians, nobody should be allowed to visit tribal areas. we should not treat tribals like wildlife...a monkey or a chimpanzee in zoo," Panda said.

"We have exposed the government's policy which brings in tourists who treat tribals as commodities for tourism," he added.

Panda also said the Maoists are not indulging in violence on their own. "We are not doing violence of our own. The government is forcing us to do that. The government wants us to stay us in the forests because we are fighting for the poor," he said.

The guerrillas had abducted Paolo, 54, and Claudio Colangelo, 61 from a forested area on the border of Ganjam and Kandhamal districts March 14. On Saturday, the rebels also kidnapped ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) legislator and a popular tribal leader Jhina Hikaka, 37, in a hilly area of Koraput district.

While the rebels Sunday released Colangelo, the other Italian and the BJD legislature are still in their captivity.

However, Panda who claims to be the organising committee secretary of the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist), said he is not responsible for the abduction of the legislature as it has not been done by his group.

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