Indian Maoist Rebels Demand Hostage Exchange

 @crvillarreal
on April 23 2012 5:57 PM
Menon
Alex Paul Menon, who works in the Indian Administrative Service and is the senior-most official in the Sukma district was abducted by Maoist rebels Saturday. Facebook

Maoist rebels have offered to release a senior official being held captive in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh in exchange for the freedom of several imprisoned guerrillas and the withdrawal of security forces from the region.

Rebels have held Alex Paul Menon, Chhattisgarh's Sukma district collector, since Saturday, and are demanding the release of eight Maoist prisoners and the suspension of military action in the area by Wednesday in exchange for Menon's freedom.

The Maoists say security forces are indiscriminately targeting tribal peoples in their campaign against the rebels, codenamed Operation Green Hunt.

In response, the local Chhattisgarh government has scaled back military operations in the jungle areas where Maoist rebels are hiding, the Times of India reported.

Rebels captured Menon Saturday afternoon while he was meeting with local tribesmen in Manjhipara village, killing his two bodyguards, BBC News reported.

A district official who was present at the scene, S.P. Vadiya, told BBC News that the rebels surrounded the camp and opened fire on Menon's guards.

Then they asked who the district magistrate was, Vadiya said. Mr. Menon came forward and told them that he was the person they were looking for. Later, they forced him to accompany them into the deep woods.

The Indian government branded the Maoists -- also known as Naxalites -- a terrorist organization in 1967 and has sought to purge the rebels from their footholds in the South Asian country's rural western regions.

The Naxalites aim to bring about a communist system in India through militant insurrection and say they are fighting for the rights of rural poor and indigenous peoples.

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