RAIPUR  - Maoist rebels in India have taken a govt official hostage and killed his two bodyguards in the state of Chhattisgarh, police said Sunday. The guerrillas shot the two guards dead when capturing Alex Paul Menon on Saturday as he toured a village in Sukma district, 320km from the state capital Raipur, police said. Menon, 32, is Sukma’s district collector, a role that makes him the most senior civil servant in the area. “It is a very unfortunate incident, and the government will do everything to secure the release of the collector,” Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh told reporters.

Menon’s kidnapping comes 10 days after Maoists in the neighbouring state of Orissa released an Italian tour guide whom they had held hostage for nearly a month.

A state assembly lawmaker also remains in captivity after being kidnapped in Orissa last month.

The Maoists have in the past kidnapped government officials and police officers to raise ransom payments and negotiate other demands. Most hostages have been released unharmed, but some have been killed.

Chhattisgarh is one of several states where Maoist guerrillas, who claim to be fighting for the rights of poor tribals and farmers, have waged a decades-long battle to overthrow state and national authorities.

The government describes the Maoist movement, which often targets police and soldiers with deadly roadside mine ambushes, as India’s biggest internal security threat.

The insurgency, which began in 1967, feeds off land disputes, police brutality and corruption, and is strongest in the poorest and most deprived areas of India, many of which are rich in natural resources.