Hunt on for kidnapped collector, back channel efforts on

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Malkangiri (Orissa), Feb 17 (PTI) District Collector RV Krishna, who has been kidnapped by the Maoists, todayremained untraced even as the authorities launched "backchannel" efforts to seek the release of the IAS officer fromthe custody of the Naxalites.

In perhaps the first-ever abduction of an IAS officerin Orissa by the Maoists, the 30-year-old district collectorof Malkangiri was kidnapped last evening by a group of 50Maoists when he was on a visit to the remote Chitrakonda area,a Maoist stronghold about 85 km from here, to attend a campfor local development, police said.

The officer was taken hostage after he went from themega public interaction camp held at Badapada bordering AndhraPradesh to inspect a culvert on a road nearby on a motorcyclealong with two junior engineers and another person,Chitrakonda Tehsildar D Gopal Krishnan said.

While the collector and a junior engineer were heldhostage, two others reached Badapada late last night with aletter and handed it over to senior officials, he said.

The Maoists have set a two-day deadline for theauthorities to fulfil their demands of a halt to anti-Naxaloperations and release of jailed ultras. The exact location ofthe officer is being ascertained, Superintendent of PoliceAnirudh Singh said.

In Delhi, Home Secretary G K Pillai said, "He(Krishna) was abducted by the Maoists and they sent theengineer back with a chit asking for... their so calleddemands. The state government and other officers are workingon this".

Strongly condemning the abduction, Pillai said, "Idon''t think there is any need for any operation to releasehim. I am sure that the local support that he has and thestate government will be able to negotiate and get hisrelease.

"I think it will take some time because the area isquite cut-off but back channel efforts are underway and Ithink it will take a few days but we are quite confident ofgetting him back," he said.

Terming Krishna''s abduction as "unfortunate", ChiefMinister Naveen Patnaik made an appeal for his early releaseand said all options were being evaluated by the governmentwhich was closely monitoring the situation.

Chief Secretary B K Patnaik said the letter sent bythe Maoists was apparently written by the abducted collectorin his own handwriting. The letter demanded halt to anti-Maoist joint operations, combing and release of all thoselodged in jails on charges of being Maoists.

Steps were being taken for early and safe release ofKrishna, a 2005 batch IAS officer, Patnaik said.

Social activist Swami Agnivesh offered to help thegovernment if his services were sought for the safe release ofthe officer.

"I would like to appeal to the Maoists who have takenKrishna as a captive not to cause any bodily harm to him," hesaid, noting that the Naxalites should give up their ultimatumof two days for the authorities to meet their demands. MOREPTI CORR SKN SC

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