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Italian tourists taken hostage in India

INDIA: Two Italian tourists have been taken hostage by Maoist rebels in the eastern Indian state of Orissa, the NDTV news channel said on Sunday quoting unnamed sources.

The channel reported that the incident occurred in the Kandhamal district of Orissa, one of several states where armed Maoist rebels have waged a decades-long battle to overthrow state and national authorities.

Local police in Kandhamal were not immediately able to confirm the report when contacted by AFP.

NDTV said on its website that the two Italians were kidnapped when they were taking photographs of local women bathing in a river. "The Maoists have said that the release of the tourists depends on the government's response to their demands," NDTV said without giving further details.

The government describes the Maoist movement, which often targets police and soldiers with deadly roadside mine ambushes, as India's biggest internal security threat.

The insurgency, which began in 1967, feeds off land disputes, police brutality and corruption, and is strongest in the poorest and most deprived areas of India, many of which are rich in natural resources.

The rebels claim they are fighting for the rights of neglected tribal people and landless farmers and say their ultimate goal is to capture India's cities and overthrow parliament.

They have kidnapped government officials and police officers in the past to raise ransom payments and negotiate other demands.

AFP

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