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Canadian national safe, would return soon, say Bastar police

RAIPUR: A massive search operation was launched by security forces in forests of Bastar after a Canadian national reportedly went missing from insurgency-hit Sukma district on Tuesday. As per preliminary reports, the Canadian who was on a bi-cycle expedition and left Mumbai for Bastar on March 14 went missing from Singamdgu village of Kistaram region in South Sukma on the borders of Chhattisgarh and Telangana on Monday. After hours of searching, police claimed that John Szlazak was safe and would be back by late Tuesday or Wednesday.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted, “I have spoken to Naveen Patnaik, Chief Minister regarding the reported abduction of a Canadian national in Koraput district of Odisha”.
While earlier reports claimed that the foreigner was abducted by the members of banned outfit in dense forest, senior police officers refuted the claim saying that John might have lost his way or detained by local villagers under suspicion. Police said that it shouldn’t be considered that he has gone missing unless his family or friend contact police.
John had generated an emergency alert on a GPS system installed in his bike on Monday. The last location of John was traced near Singanmadgu of south Sukma.
Talking to TOI, Sundarraj P, inspector general of police (in charge) Bastar range said, “A Canadian John Szlazak who was on a bi-cycle expedition went missing on Monday evening from Sigamdgu village of Kistaram. Connecting all dots, it seems, he might have ventured into South Bastar via Telangana border. May be out of ignorance, but surprisingly he didn’t get himself registered as foreign national in any of the police stations in Bastar nor in Telangana. Police had no intimation about a foreign national venturing in the region. We presume that he might have lost his way or detained by some people. Police are trying to establish contact with him and collect as much information via our security forces who are out for his search. We don’t think he has been abducted by Maoists.”
IG added that as per the latest indicators via the sources, John was located in South Sukma and was safe.
“He might reach Jagdalpur by Tuesday late evening or Wednesday.
John went out of touch as he was in dense forest where there’s no mobile connectivity or any sort of communication possible,” IG Sudarraj P added.
He said, “fortunately, any foreign national going on an expedition are given beacon to call for help in case of trouble by pressing a button. John might have pressed the button as soon as he got detained and the concerned agency might have picked the signal that had alerted the state government and police.”
Police sources said that John’s itinerary were being checked with the help of a travel agent and when did he reach Bastar and who was he in contact with.
John is a member of Canadian organisation, Immigration Refugees and Citizenship, and came India in first week of March.
Meanwhile, police in Sukma confirmed that John was safe and sound. The villagers who had come to headquarters for ration informed police that the foreigner was intercepted by sangham members and when John couldn’t communicate with them, he was kept in village. Although there wasn’t any hostage like situation but a communication gap. According to information, no police party has been sent to the village due to security reasons while some people were sent as mediators to convince the sangham members that he was a tourist.

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