Raipur: Heavily-armed Maoist rebels on Saturday shot dead senior Congress party leader Mahendra Karma and injured former Union minister V.C. Shukla who is said to be critical having sustained three bullet injuries in an ambush in a dense forest in Chhattisgarh’s Jagdalpur district.

The Maoists also kidnapped Pradesh Congress Committee chief Nand Kumar Patel and his son Dinesh after attacking a convoy of Congress leaders in Darba Gati Valley, police said.

A former Congress member of legislative assembly from Rajnandgaon Udya Mudaliyar was also shot dead and prominent woman tribal leader Phulo Devi Netam wounded by the Maoists who attacked the convoy at around 1730 hours when they were returning from the party’s “Parivartan" rally.

There were unconfirmed reports of some policemen and other Congress activists being killed in the attack.

Karma, a former home minister who was a guiding force behind “Salwa Judum" (anti-Naxal operation by vigilante groups), was surrounded by about 100 to 150 Maoists who peppered his body with bullets.

The Maoists had put up road blocks by felling trees before triggering a landmine blast that hit one of the vehicles in the convoy and then opening fire, police sources said.

After carrying out the attack, the Maoists set nearby trees on fire.

The personal security officers of the Congress leaders returned the fire but soon ran out of bullets.

The Maoist attack took place in a dense forest near National Highway 202 connecting Chhattisgarh with Naxal-hit Bhadrachalam district in adjacent Andhra Pradesh.

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’ rally despite the 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.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh after the attacks and asked him if any assistance from the centre is required by the state in the wake of the attacks. UPA chairperson and Congress president Sonia Gandhi condemned the incident, saying it was an attack on the democratic values.

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