Updated at 11:45pm
At least 17 people, including senior Congress leader Mahendra Karma, were killed and former union minister V C Shukla and 19 others injured when heavily-armed Maoists ambushed a convoy of party leaders inside a dense forest in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar district.
The attack at the Congress convoy happened at around 5:30 pm. The Congress leaders were on their way to Keshloor after participating in the “Parivartan Yatra” at Sukma when the Maoists opened fire at their vehicles between Darbha and Tongpal on Jagdalpur-Sukma road.
The Maoists also kidnapped PCC chief Nand Kumar Patel and his son after attacking the Congress leaders at Darba Gati Valley in Jagdalpur district , police said.
A former Congress MLA Udya Mudaliyar was also shot dead by the Maoists.
Karma, a former Home Minister of the state who was a guiding force behind “Salwa Judum” (anti-Naxal operation by vigilante groups), was killed when a large number of Maoists opened fire on the rally. The burst of gunfire was preceded by a blast.
Shukla was reported to be at Darba Ghati police station and the nature of his injuries could not be ascertained immediately.
The Maoist attack took place in a dense forest near National Highway 202 connection Chattisgarh with Bhadrachalam district of adjacent Andhra Pradesh.
Opposition Congress’ Parivartan Yatra, comprising senior party leaders, had launched Parivartan Yatra on April 12 in the state where Assembly elections are due by year end.
Chhattisgarh Congress media cell president Shailesh Trivedi said it was matter of investigation whether Naxals were involved in the attack.
He alleged the state’s BJP government did not provide adequate security to Congress’ Yatra despite opposition from Naxals.
“Naxals have opposed both BJP’s Vikas Yatra and Congress’ Parivartan Yatra. However, the state government provided security only to BJP’s Yatra and not to the one organised by Congress. Had it been provided security, today’s incident would not have happened,” he said.
Police sources said another former Congress MLA Phulo Devi Netam from Bastar, a prominent tribal leader, was also wounded in the firing by Maoists, police sources said.
PTI reports that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has spoken to to Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh over the Maoist attack and inquired whether more central forces are required urgently by the Chhattisgarh government.
Prime Minister has appealed to the Maoist to release the abducted which includes Congress’s Chhattisgarh Chief Nand Kumar Patel.
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi has termed the Maoist attack on party workers in Chhattisgarh as attack on democratic values. Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi and Congress in charge for Chhattisgarh BK Hariprasad are on their way to Raipur.
— with PTI inputs