x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Indian Maoist rebels kidnap two Italian tourists

Kidnappers in eastern India issue 13 demands for the release of the Italians, including the release of prisoners and an end to anti-Maoist combing operations by the police.

NEW DELHI // Maoist rebels in eastern India have kidnapped two Italian tourists - the first time they have targeted foreigners in the 45-year history of the insurgency.

Television reports said the kidnappers had issued 13 demands for the release of the Italians, including the release of prisoners and an end to anti-Maoist combing operations by the police.

The abduction took place on Saturday in the forested Kandhamal district of Odisha (formerly Orissa), one of a string of states where armed Maoist guerrillas have been waging a decades-long battle to overthrow the state.

The Italian foreign ministry in Rome identified the kidnap victims as Paolo Bosusco, a 54-year-old tourist guide from Turin, and Claudio Colangelo, a 61-year-old from Rome, who were on a trekking trip.

"We immediately activated a crisis unit" which is in contact with Italy's consul general in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata," a ministry spokesman told AFP.

The consul general "is working with local police on the ground. The men's families have been informed," the spokesman added.

There were reports the group had been targeted after taking photos of tribal people in the district.

There has been outrage over recent reports related to tourists taking part in "human safaris" in which tourists travel into remote areas to see ancient tribes, including in Odisha.

The Maoists, of Naxalites as they are known after the town in West Bengal where the rebellion began, have often taken hostages - but these have tended to be police, government officials or villagers.

In February 2011, in a nearby part of Odisha, Maoists kidnapped a well-respected local official, but released him a few days later after uproar from local residents and a promise from the state government to review prisoner cases.

The Maoists have rarely killed high-profile targets — preferring to gain concessions through negotiations.

The group says it is fighting for the rights of India's poor and aims for an armed takeover of the Indian state. Over the years, it has become increasingly associated with the tribal population in India's forest areas, who are by far the most neglected and impoverished community in the country.

foreign.desk@thenational.ae

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