RAIPUR, India – Maoist rebels in central India released a government official Thursday after holding him hostage for nearly two weeks in the latest of a series of kidnappings by the guerrillas, police said.
“Alex Paul Menon has been released by the Maoists,” the regional head of anti-Maoist operations in the state of Chhattisgarh, Ramniwas, who goes by one name, told AFP.
The guerrillas kidnapped Menon last week, shooting his bodyguards dead as he toured a village in Sukma district in the impoverished state.
The 32-year-old is the most senior civil servant in the area in his role as Sukma’s district collector.
Last week the rebels released a regional lawmaker, Jhina Hikaka, from captivity after holding him hostage for more than a month in the neighbouring state of Orissa.
Menon’s kidnapping is the most recent in a series of high-profile abductions, including a case earlier this year when foreigners were targeted for the first time by the guerrillas.
The two Italian men who were kidnapped in Orissa in March were later released unharmed.
The Maoists have in the past abducted government officials and police officers to raise ransom payments and negotiate other demands. Most hostages have been released, but some have been killed.
Chhattisgarh is one of several states where Maoist guerrillas, who say they are fighting for the rights of poor tribals and farmers, have waged a decades-long battle to overthrow state and national authorities.
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.