Hopes of an end to the hostage crisis were dashed when there was no trace of the abducted policemen several hours after the Maoists claimed they had released them on Sunday.
Maoists claimed to have released the three Bihar policemen taken hostage a week back but the state government said it had no information as the agonizing wait for their families continued.
“The search has been intensified as we have to ensure safe release of the hostages,” said Additional Director General of Police (Headquarters) P K Thakur and added that the authorities cannot rely upon media reports quoting the Maoists of having released the hostages.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar also said that he had no knowledge about the release of the hostages.
His comments followed an unsubstantiated claim by Maoists to some local media offices that they had released the three cops. Local TV channels in Jamui quoting Maoist sources said that the policemen had been released in Belhar forest on the border of Banka and Jamui.
According to footage beamed on a local channel, a self- proclaimed Maoist leader identifying himself as ‘Kishanji’ met family members of one of the hostages, Abhay Prasad Yadav in the wee hours today and assured them that he would be home soon.
“We have alerted the Superintendents of Police of these districts, but not a single hostage has been located anywhere,” Director General of Police Neelmani and IG (Operation) K S Dwivedi, overseeing the combing operation in the districts of Munger, Jamui, Lakhisarai, Banka and Kaimur, said.
The area of search operation concentrated mostly in the hills and forests of the districts of Banka, Jamui, Munger, Lakhisarai and Kaimur, Dwivedi said, adding CoBRA battalion of CRPF, SAP, BMP and STF was engaged in a “meticulously planned search.”
A solution to the week-long hostage crisis in the state appeared to have emerged with a Maoist leader claiming that the three kidnapped policemen – Rupesh Kumar Sinha, Mohammad Ehsaan and Abhay Yadav– would be freed by 8 AM on Sunday. They had earlier killed one of the captives, Lokus Tete whose body was found on Friday.
Under intense pressure to end the crisis in the poll-bound state, the Chief Minister on Saturday held an all-party meeting and offered Maoists safe passage for talks for the release of the hostages.
Avinash, a self-proclaimed spokesman for the Maoists, had claimed on Saturday night that the central committee had decided to let off the three policemen.
Giving a glimmer of hope, ‘Kishanji’ said, “Naxalites do have mothers and sisters and we don’t want your family to grieve anymore.” Abhay’s wife, Rajni, tied a ‘rakhi’ to the Maoist.
Dwivedi said, “We too have seen the TV footage, but we don’t know the identity of the person as yet.”