12-day hostage crisis ends, Sukma collector released

Raipur: After 12 days in captivity, Sukma Collector Alex Paul Menon was today released unharmed by Maoists bringing to an end the hostage crisis in Chattisgarh marked by some anxious moments just before he stepped out of the rebel stronghold.

The 32-year-old 2006-batch IAS officer, abducted on April 21 at Sukma, about 450 km from here, while touring a village was handed over to the two Maoist mediators B D Sharma and Prof G Hargopal, at Tadmetla in the evening and brought by road to the CRPF base camp at Chintalnar, a 30-minute drive by road.

Menon, who is an asthmatic and for whom medicines had to be rushed last week, in his first comments after being freed thanked Chattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, the state authorities, the mediators from the Government and the Maoist side, his family and friends, saying but for their cooperation his release would have been delayed.

"I am ok," Menon said when asked how his health was and when pressed further said, "I am tired, shattered. I would like to go home." Menon, whose wife is in the family way and is at Sukma where he is posted, about 150 km from Chintalnar, said he will speak to newsmen later. When asked whether he will like to continue to hold his post in Sukma, Menon said, " I will work wherever government will ask me. If they want me to remain here(in Sukma), I will do so."

The IAS officer said he will proceed to Sukma only tomorrow after taking rest at the CRPF camp. He also telephoned the Chief Minister at 6.55 pm and thanked the state government for its "sincere effort" in securing his release. Confusion prevailed over Menon`s release in the afternoon after the local media reported that he was set free but there was no official confirmation.

It was only after about a three-hour anxious wait did Menon appear in public and produced before the local media. Ram Niwas, ADGP(anti-Naxal operations), said the IAS officer is fine but he will receive necessary medical checkup In Chennai, a greatly relieved Menon`s father A Varadhas profusely thanked Chattisgarh authorities for the efforts they took leading to the "happy occasion".