Maoist rebels in central India kill 1 villager, release 250

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PATNA, India (AP) — Maoist rebels killed one villager and released around 250 others they had held for a day to stop the construction of a bridge in central India, police said Sunday.

The rebels accused one of the villagers of being a police informer before killing him, said R.K. Vij, inspector general of police in Chhattisgarh state. No other details were immediately available about the man who was killed.

The rest of the villagers were released late Saturday night and have returned to their homes in Chhattisgarh's Sukma district, Vij said.

The rebels rounded the villagers up late Friday and held them in nearby forests as a negotiating tactic to get the Chhattisgarh government to stop construction of a bridge. The rebels fear the bridge would give better mobility to security forces.

The incident embarrassed the state government as it occurred on the eve of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Chhattisgarh.

Police said that it was unrelated to Modi's visit and that the seizure of the villagers was meant to stop them from working at the bridge construction site.

The government has been trying to improve road connectivity in the dense jungles of Chhattisgarh because the poor roads hinder security forces from going after the rebels.

The rebels say they are inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong and have been fighting for more than three decades.

The rebels, who have been called India's biggest internal security threat, operate in 20 of India's 28 states and have thousands of fighters, according to the Home Ministry.

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