South Asia

India Maoist rebels 'kidnap' senior official

R Vineel Krishna
Image caption Mr Krishna was on his way to inspect a government project

Maoist rebels in India have "kidnapped" a senior official in the eastern state of Orissa, police say.

R Vineel Krishna, district collector of Malkangiri, was on his way to inspect a government project with three others when rebels intercepted them.

The Maoists let two officials go with a letter demanding the release of rebels held in prisons within 48 hours.

Indian forces are battling Maoists in several states. The rebels say they are fighting for the rights of the poor.

Reports said Mr Krishna had first travelled to Badapada village to attend a "public relations camp" on Wednesday evening.

From there, accompanied by two officials and an NGO worker, he left for Papermetla area by motorcycle to inspect a rural electrification project.

The police believe that the rebels stopped the group and took Mr Krishna away.

Offensive

The two freed officials were given a hand-written note demanding release of imprisoned rebels, among other things.

Sanjeev Marik, the chief of anti-Maoist operations in Orissa state, told the BBC: "We still have not managed to contact the abducted district collector. We are doing everything we possibly can to secure his release."

Malkangiri is among the districts worst affected by Maoist violence in India.

The hilly and forested terrain make it an ideal place for Maoists to run their camps there and launch operations against security forces.

Mr Krishna, 30, is a graduate from the premier Indian Institute of Technology and joined the civil service in 2005.

He was appointed to head the Malkangiri district 16 months ago.

In 2009, Maoist rebels in Bengal kidnapped a police inspector. He was freed only after a local court ordered release of 14 tribal women on bail in the state's embattled Lalgarh region.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the Maoist insurgency as India's biggest internal security challenge.

A government offensive against the rebels - widely referred to as Operation Green Hunt - began in October 2009.

It involves 50,000 troops and is taking place across five states - West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa and Chhattisgarh.

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