- - Saturday, March 24, 2012

BHUBANSEWAR, India — Maoist rebels on Saturday kidnapped a lawmaker in the eastern state of Odisha, halting negotiations for the release of two Italian hostages the rebels have held for 10 days.

The rebels kidnapped lawmaker Jhina Hikaka, a member of the ruling Biju Janata Dal party, after intercepting his car early Saturday, a regional tribal leader said.

Maoist observers in Odisha said Mr. Hikaka’s kidnapping could be the result of a power struggle within the rebel ranks. It comes after days of bargaining between rebel leaders and government officials over negotiators for talks on freeing a pair of Italian hostages.

“There is a problem from both sides. We appeal to the Maoists to release the hostages in good health and then hold talks,” Dandapani Mohanty, one of the Maoist negotiators, said Saturday.

On Monday, the Maoist kidnappers issued a list of demands for securing the release of two Italian tourists — Clandio Colangilo and Boscusco Polo — who were taken hostage March 14.

The rebels’ demands included the release of several Maoists, including several political prisoners and three senior leaders, from jails and prisons around the region, according to a copy of the list obtained by The Washington Times.

The government had said it was impossible to fulfill all 13 demands made by the rebels.

Odisha’s chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Saturday urged the Maoists to free all three hostages.

“Senior police officers are at the spot,” said Mr. Patnaik, who sent two of his deputy ministers to the scene of Saturday’s kidnapping and spoke with Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram.

Maoist rebels in this mineral-rich region of India have long fought to overthrow the government, often launching deadly attacks against police and political figures in ongoing guerrilla warfare in largely tribal areas in the region.

In the eastern state of Jharkhand, rebels killed 13 police officers in a land-mine attack in January, and 10 police officers and an 8-year-old boy in a similar attack in December.