Malkangiri (Agencies): In perhaps the first -ever abduction of an IAS officer by Maoists, Malkangiri District Collector R V Krishna was kidnapped after which Orissa government conceded one of the two demands by Naxals by halting combing operations across the state.

30-year-old Krishna, a 2005 batch IAS officer, was kidnapped last evening by a group of 50 Maoists, officials said on Thursday. The Naxals have set a two-day deadline for meeting their demands--halt to anti-Naxal operations and freeing of jailed compatriots.

Krishna was on a visit to the remote Chitrakonda area, a Maoist stronghold about 85 km from here, to attend a camp for local development, police said.

He was taken hostage after he went from a public interaction camp held at Badapada bordering Andhra Pradesh to inspect a culvert on a road nearby on a motorcycle along with two junior engineers and another person, Chitrakonda Tehsildar D Gopal Krishnan said.

The Collector and a junior engineer--Pabitra Majhi--were held captive while the two others reached Badapada late last night with a letter and handed it over to senior officials, he said.

In a bid to facilitate the safe release of the two men, Orissa government halted combing operations across the state.

"Instructions have been issued to stop combing operations across the state, including in Malkangiri from where the District Collector and a junior engineer were abducted last evening," state Home Secretary U N Behera said in Bhubaneswar.

The government, he said, was hopeful that the abductors would release the two men by tomorrow as one of their major demands has been fulfilled. "We think that there is no need to appeal for an extension of the deadline."

As authorities launched "back channel" efforts to secure the release of the captives, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram spoke to Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on phone and asked him to make all efforts for safe return of Krishna.

Officials in Bhubaneswar said the state government has contacted Naxal sympathiser and balladeer Varavara Rao and social activist Swami Agnivesh for help.

Patnaik reviewed the situation with state Chief Secretary B K Patnaik, Home Secretary U N Behera and other top officials and said that the government was evaluating all options and monitoring the case.

"I appeal for early release of the young and energetic officer, who is known for his hard work among the poor and the tribals," the Chief Minister told reporters.
In Delhi, Home Secretary G K Pillai said, "I think it will take some time (for the release) because the area is quite cut-off but back channel efforts are underway... we are quite confident of getting him back."

Swami Agnivesh said he was ready to help the government for the safe release of Krishna.

Thousands of people from all walks of life also took out spontaneous peace processions in several parts of Orissa in a mass outpouring of concern and appealed for the release of the two captives.