Maoists abduct Sukma district collector in Chhattishgarh

Raipur: In an audacious daylight operation, Maoist rebels today abducted collector of Chhattisgarh`s Sukma district Alex Pal Menon from the middle of a meeting with villagers after killing his two security officers.

Menon (32), an IAS officer of 2006 batch, was kidnapped from Majhipara village in Keralapal area of the naxal-infested district this afternoon, Additional Director of Police (anti-naxal operations) Ram Nivas told PTI. The incident happened when Menon, who went to the village on motorcycle was holding a meeting with the villagers as part of the government`s `Gram Suraj` campaign, aimed at weaning away the locals from the path of naxalism.

"Around 20 Naxalites reached the spot and shot dead two personal security officers of the collector before taking him into the nearby forest," Ram Nivas said. The Maoists, however, spared Sub-divisional Magistrate S K Vaidya, who was also present. A police team led by district Superintendent of Police Abhishek Shandilya rushed to the spot and launch a combing operation to rescue the collector, he said.

Chief Minister Ram Singh said full efforts will be made to secure Menon`s release. "We are analysing the situation," he said. Home Minister P Chidambaram spoke to Singh and assured him all help from the Centre. A special team has been constituted to mount concerted rescue efforts for the top district officer after Director General of Police A M Nawani reviewed the situation at an emergency meeting with state police brass.

The Sukma district Collector`s kidnapping comes even as uncertainty continues over the fate of ruling BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka in neighbouring Odisha who was abducted by the Maoists about a month ago. Menon is the first Collector of the newly-created Sukma district and was known to be pro-active in undertaking development work in the backward region.

Naxals had last year kidnapped the Collector of adjoining Malkanagiri district of Odisha R Veenel Krishan along with a junior engineer and released them after the state government agreed to fulfill all 14 demands of the rebels including withdrawal of cases against top CPI (Maoist) leaders Prasadam, Padma and Eswari to facilitate their release from jails.