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India's Maoist rebels release 250 villagers who were seized to protest bridge construction

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. 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, May 10, 2015.(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. 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, May 10, 2015.(AP Photo/Mustafa Quraishi, File)  (The Associated Press)

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.