Maoists on Thursday gunned down a prominent leader of the civil militia movement, Salwa Judum, in Chhattisgarh's restive Bastar region, police said.
Raghu Singh, 55, was leading the Salwa Judum movement in Bijapur district's sprawling Bhopalpatnam area. He was shot dead by Maoists in the area. He had a few weeks ago sought police protection, saying he feared for his life.
Maoists trapped him, pumped bullets into his body and then slit his throat. Singh died on the spot, according to Avinash Mohanty, superintendent of police Bijapur.
Mohanty denied knowledge of Singh seeking police cover. "I don't have an idea whether he had sent application seeking police cover in the wake of threat to his life," he said.
Police have launched a drive in the forested Bhopalpatnam area to apprehend the killers.
Singh is a close aide of Mahendra Karma, the man credited for launch of the Salwa Judum movement in June 2005. His killing has sparked fear in Bhopalpatnam locality, some 520 km south of state capital Raipur.
The controversial Salwa Judum movement that led to escalation in violence in vast restive Bastar region, displaced about 50,000 tribal poor people from their forested villages and the government rehabilitated them in 23 makeshift camps in Dantewada and Bijapur districts.
Meanwhile, police arrested seven village-level cadres of the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) in Dantewada district on Thursday evening.