Collector kidnap: Orissa stops combing operations

Bhubaneswar, Feb 17 (PTI) In a bid to facilitate thesafe release of Malkangiri district collector and a juniorengineer kidnapped by Maoists, Orissa government today haltedcombing operations across the state, fulfilling one of the twodemands of the abductors.

"Instructions have been issued to stop combingoperations across the state, including in Malkangiri fromwhere the district collector and a junior engineer wereabducted last evening," state Home Secretary U N Behera toldreporters.

The government, he said, was hopeful that the abductorswould release the two men by tomorrow as one of their majordemands have been fulfilled. "We think that there is no needto appeal for an extension of the deadline."

To a question on whether the state government wouldappeal to Maoists to extend the deadline set for fulfillmentoftheir demand, the home secretary said government was hopefulthe abductors would release the collector and the juniorengineers by tomorrow.

The state government had opened all channels fordiscussion with the abductors, Behera said, adding "We haveextended an open invitation to the rebels for a dialogueeither at the district level or with the home department inthe state level."

"The Maoists could hold talks directly or through theirrepresentatives," he said.

The move came a day after abduction of Malkangiridistrict collector R V Krishna and junior engineer PabitraMajhi from Badapada in the Maoist strong-hold of Chitrakondaarea bordering Andhra Pradesh by Maoists who demanded a haltto combing operations and release of tribal activists within48 hours.

Besides contacting Swami Agnivesh, the state governmenthad also contacted others for facilitating the release of thetwo men, he said.

On Swami Agnivesh''s statement that he would act onlyafter getting a call from Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, thehome secretary said he was not aware of it.

While Behera had talked to Swami Agnivesh, IndustriesSecretary T Ramachandru spoke to Maoist ideologue VaraVaraRao.

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