Maoists kill Congress leader in central India

The heavily armed rebels on Saturday killed a local Congress leader and kidnapped at least four others after ambushing their convoy in a remote tribal belt of central India, police said.

"The Maoists targeted the convoy returning from a political rally. They started firing indiscriminately and killed state Congress leader Gopi Wadhwani," police director general Ram Niwas told Agence France-Presse.

The guerillas have abducted at least four other party leaders including Chhattisgarh state Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel along with his son, Niwas added.

Veteran Congress leader and former cabinet minister Vidya Charan Shukla was also "critically injured" in the attack, carried out in a thickly forested area of Jagdalpur district, 284 kilometres from state capital Raipur.

The attack is the latest in a simmering conflict that pits the insurgents against local and national authorities in the forests and rural areas of mainly central and eastern India.

The guerrillas, who say they are fighting for the rights of tribal people and landless farmers, often collect funds through extortion and protection rackets.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has described the Maoists as the country's most serious internal security threat, on Saturday spoke to state Chief Minister Raman Singh and promised all "necessary aid". – AFP

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