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India Maoists release policeman

22 October 09 13:46 GMT
By Subir Bhaumik
BBC News, Calcutta

Maoists in the Indian state of West Bengal have released a police officer kidnapped on Tuesday, officials say.

The move follows a court order to release 14 tribal women on bail in the state's embattled Lalgarh region.

The Maoists had demanded a swap, linking the release of the police inspector, Atindranath Dutta, with that of the women.

A court in the town of Midnapore gave them bail after government counsel did not contest the move.

Safe passage

But Maoist leader Koteswar Rao - alias Kishenji - said the release was delayed because Maoists fighters reported an encirclement of a rebel-held area by a huge force of police and paramilitary troops.

Some firing was reported from the area, he said.

Mr Rao demanded that police stop their operation and allow Maoist fighters safe passage.

The freed women come from the troubled Maoist-dominated enclave of Lalgarh and were arrested for alleged complicity with the rebels.

Mr Dutta, the officer in charge of Sankrail police station in West Midnapore district, was kidnapped on Tuesday after dozens of Maoists stormed a bank and the police station. Two policemen were killed in the attack.

There was some concern for the fate of the kidnapped policeman after the beheading of another police official in neighbouring Jharkhand state earlier this month.

Mr Dutta's wife appealed to the Maoists on television to spare her husband and even visited West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, who assured her of "expeditious action".

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