Raipur: In an audacious daylight operation, Maoist rebels on Saturday abducted collector of Chhattisgarh`s Sukma district Alex Paul 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 said.
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 SK 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 Raman Singh said full efforts will be made to secure Menon`s release. "We are analysing the situation," he said.
A special team has been constituted to mount concerted rescue efforts for the top district officer after Director General of Police AM 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. As per sources, the IB had inputs that the collector could be targeted.
So far no demands from the side of the Maoists have been made.
Meanwhile, the Union Home Minister P Chidambaram called the Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh and took stock of the situation. The Minister of Home Affairs told said that all help was being extended to the state government.
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.
In Odisha two Italians were abducted by Maoists who freed them after a month in captivity after the state government acceded to their demand to release some of the jailed left wing extremists.
The `Gram Suraj` campaign has been launched by the Raman Singh government as part of its efforts to check the influence of the Maoists who hold sway in several districts of the state including neighbouring Dantewada.
Ministers, MLAs and government officers visit the villages during the programme in order to establish better communication with the locals to address their problems effectively.
The Naxalites had yesterday triggered a powerful landmine blast targeting the convoy of Bijapur BJP MLA Mahesh Gagda in which two BJP workers and the driver of the vehicle carrying them were killed when he was on one such campaign.
With PTI inputs