Mar 26, 2012, 04.04 PM | Source: Reuters
Talks between Maoist rebels and Indian authorities resumed on Monday to free the second of two Italians abducted in Orissa after the first was released unharmed by the Maoists over the weekend.
Claudio Colangelo was taken hostage with tour guide Paolo Bosusco on March 14, in what is believed to be the first time the rebels have targeted foreigners. He was released to a group of reporters on Sunday.
Maoists say the Italians were kidnapped after they were spotted taking photos of tribal women bathing in a river in Kandhamal district, an allegation Colangelo denied after his release.
"Yes, we have resumed the negotiations for the release of the Italian," a senior state official told Reuters. The official is taking part in the negotiations, but did not wish to be identified.
Colangelo's release came a day after talks between the government and rebel-nominated negotiators collapsed. On Saturday, suspected Maoists kidnapped an Orissa politician, adding to the tension.
Among the Maoists' demands are a ban on tourists -- Indian or foreign -- in tribal areas and a halt in operations by government forces against the rebels.
Also known as Naxals, the Maoists have fought a decades-long war against the government in a wide swathe of central India. They say they are fighting for the poor and landless and they often back farmers in land disputes with big business.
The government calls them India's main internal security threat and an obstacle to higher growth and more jobs in Asia's third-largest economy. Hundreds die annually in the conflict, although levels of violence have fallen in recent years.
Analysts said they believed the kidnappings were designed to draw attention to the plight of tribal people in one of India's poorest regions.
(Editing by Matthias Williams and Ron Popeski)