Indian police said Maoist rebels were behind a deadly attack on an election convoy in a restive central state on Tuesday, April 9, just two days before voting starts in the country’s phased general election.
“At the moment we are ascertaining the number of dead,” Girdhari Nayak, a senior officer from Chhattisgarh state, where the attack occurred, told AFP.
“According to our preliminary investigation, five people have died” in the attack, the state’s police deputy inspector general, P. Sundar Raj, told reporters.
Some reports put the death toll at six.
The improvised explosive device attack took place at Nakulnar in Dantewada district, the Indian Express reported.
Nayak said the rebels, who have been waging an armed insurgency against the state for decades, detonated a roadside bomb before firing on the convoy carrying officials from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party.
“It was a massive blast … The vehicle was blown apart,” he said. “Immediately after the blast, the Maoists opened indiscriminate firing. One bullet hit the local lawmaker. Firing is underway. Bodies are mutilated.”
BJP state legislator Bhima Mandavi, was in the convoy when it was attacked, the BBC reported, later reporting police as saying that Mandavi, the only BJP MLA out of the 12 that represent the region, was killed in the attack.
Chhattisgarh: BJP convoy attacked by Naxals in Dantewada. BJP MLA Bheema Mandavi was also in the convoy, further details awaited. pic.twitter.com/MhNVtar2aD
— ANI (@ANI) April 9, 2019
Police said the explosion occurred at around 4.30 p.m., the Times of India reported.
The rebels often call for a boycott of elections as part of their campaign against the Indian state.
The vote in Chhattisgarh is due on April 11, in the first phase of the general election which will only finish on May 19.
The Maoist insurgency began in the 1960s, inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, and has cost thousands of lives in almost daily incidents of violence.
Thousands of armed men and women – also known as naxals – have fought authorities in the so-called “Red Corridor” that stretches through central and eastern India.
They say they are fighting for the rights of the indigenous tribal people, including the right to land, resources and jobs.
Maoists are believed to be present in at least 20 Indian states but are most active in forested resource-rich areas in the states of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand and Maharashtra.
With reporting from AFP