Bhubaneswar, April 7 (IANS) Extending their deadline to Tuesday, Maoists holding Biju Janata Dal legislator Jhina Hikaka Saturday demanded unconditional release of five more people from Odisha jails in order to secure his release.
The response from the rebels came two days after Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announced the names of 27 people, including eight Maoists, to be released in exchange for the lawmaker and an Italian.
'Jagabandhu', who claimed himself as a leader of the Andhra-Odisha border special zonal committee, in an audio message to some journalists said the government must release five more people in addition to the 27.
The rebel leader also named the people to be released unconditionally by the government. "We have extended the deadline to April 10. If they are not released the government will see our next step," he said.
The rebels, who abducted Hikaka from Koraput district on March 24, had earlier set a Saturday evening deadline for the government to decide on their demands.
The rebel leader also added that the health of the legislator is good and "will remain good until April 10".
Italian tour operator Bosusco Paolo has been held hostage since March 14 by another group of rebels.
The group, led by Sabyasachi Panda, had earlier threatened to take an "extreme step" if the government does not release more people by Tuesday. Panda had made the announcement Friday in an audio message which was aired by some local television channels.
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ANJAN KUMAR SAMALApril 7, 2012 at 8:00 PM