Police say Maoist rebels have released unharmed around 250 villagers they were holding to stop the construction of a bridge in central India.

According to a top police official, R.K. Vij, the villagers were released late Saturday night and have returned to their village in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh state.

The rebels rounded them up a day earlier and held them captive 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 rebels say they are inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong and have been fighting for more than three decades. The home ministry says they are India's biggest internal security threat.