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Official says efforts on to free villagers held by rebels opposing bridge in central India

FILE - In this April 13, 2007 file photo, Maoist rebels or Naxalites, officially the Communist Party of India (Maoist) that takes its name from the Naxalbari, a village outside Kolkata where the revolt began in 1967, raise their arms during an exercise at a temporary base in the Abujh Marh forests, in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh. The chief minister of Chhattisgarh state said on Saturday, May 9, 2015, that efforts are on to secure the release of around 250 villagers being held by Maoist rebels protesting the construction of a bridge in central India, a common tactic used by the insurgents. (AP Photo/Mustafa Quraishi, File)

FILE - In this April 13, 2007 file photo, Maoist rebels or Naxalites, officially the Communist Party of India (Maoist) that takes its name from the Naxalbari, a village outside Kolkata where the revolt began in 1967, raise their arms during an exercise at a temporary base in the Abujh Marh forests, in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh. The chief minister of Chhattisgarh state said on Saturday, May 9, 2015, that efforts are on to secure the release of around 250 villagers being held by Maoist rebels protesting the construction of a bridge in central India, a common tactic used by the insurgents. (AP Photo/Mustafa Quraishi, File)  (The Associated Press)

A top official says efforts are on to secure the release of around 250 villagers being held by Maoist rebels protesting the construction of a bridge in central India, a common tactic used by the insurgents.

The chief minister of Chhattisgarh state, Raman Singh, says the rebels rounded up the villagers in Marenga village and took them to nearby forests late Friday.

Singh said Saturday that officials were negotiating with the rebels and expressed confidence that the villagers would be released soon.

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

Police said the incident was unrelated to Modi's visit and was to stop villagers from working at the bridge construction site.