Maoist rebels holding an Italian tour guide hostage in India have threatened “extreme steps” unless their demand for the release of their jailed comrades is met by Tuesday.
The rebels in the eastern state of Orissa did not specify in a tape recording sent to media late on Friday what they might do, but in the past Maoists have mutilated and killed their captives.
However, it is the first time that the rebels have targeted foreigners.
“We want a clear-cut written commitment from the government concerning our demands. We won’t release the Italian national until then,” rebel leader Sabyasachi Panda said in the audio message.
Otherwise, he said, they may take “extreme steps.”
The Orissa State Government has said it would free 27 prisoners in exchange for tour guide Paolo Bosusco and a local lawmaker who is being held in another part of the state by a separate branch of the rebels.
However, the Maoists have rejected the list of prisoners the government has offered to free, saying the names do not include those insurgents the group wants released.
They put a 96-hour deadline on their demands in the Friday message.
Bosusco, who runs a tour company in Orissa, was captured by the rebels on March 14 along with another Italian man, Claudio Colangelo, who was released 11 days later.
The pair were kidnapped while trekking in the remote district of Kandhamal. Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has called for Bosusco and the lawmaker to be released “immediately, unharmed and in good health.”
The Maoists have been fighting a deadly low-intensity war against authorities for decades over the rights of tribal people and landless farmers.
India’s government describes the guerrillas as the most serious internal security threat.
“Earlier, we released one Italian as a goodwill gesture with the hope of getting a fair deal from the government, but we did not get any,” Panda said in the latest message.
The rebels’ demands also include a ban on tourists visiting tribal areas and an end to the government’s security operations targeting the Maoists.
Italian diplomats have been in Orissa during the negotiations with the rebels.