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Naxals attack ashram, kill 5

Suspected Maoists gunned down at least five persons at an ashram for girls in Orissa's Kandhmal district and prominent VHP leader Laxmanananda Saraswati could be among the dead.

india Updated: Aug 24, 2008 01:38 IST

Suspected Maoists Saturday night gunned down at least five persons at an ashram for girls in Orissa's Kandhmal district and prominent VHP leader Laxmanananda Saraswati could be among the dead.

"I have received reports of five deaths. However, I have to re-check before confirming the death of Laxmanananda Saraswati," DGP Gopal Chandra Nanda told PTI.

However, according to Subhash Chouhan, the national convenor of Bajrang Dal, Laxmanananda was among the five persons killed in the incident.

The victims include two inmates of the ashram, Chouhan said.

The incident took place at Laxmananda's kanyashram at Tumudibandh, about 100 km from Phulbani, the district headquarters of Kandhmal district.

A group of nearly 30 armed Maoists attacked the ashram, said an eyewitness on phone.

The killing triggered panic across Kandhmal district which was rocked by communal violence during the Christmas in December, 2007.

Home Secretary TK Mishra asked the Centre to rush two additional battalions of para-military force to the tribal- dominated and communally sensitive Kandhmal district to deal with any eventuality.

"I spoke to the union Home Secretary to rush additional forces and allow extension of the stay of seven companies of CRPF which had been deployed in the district since December, 2007 when communal violence had broken out there," he said.

Meanwhile, Sangh Parivar's Vishwa Sambad Kendra, Orissa, has claimed a letter threatening to abduct Laxmanananda Saraswati had been received at his main ashram at Chakapada in Kandhmal district.

The letter was posted on August nine and received at the Ashram on August 22, the Kendra claimed in a statement adding that a complaint in this regard was lodged at Tumudibandha police station.

Involvement of Maoists in the killing was suspected in view of the sophisticated weapons used by the attackers who fired indiscriminately when inmates of the ashram were busy celebrating Janmashtami festival.

The attackers were believed to have used AK-47 rifles and revolvers and hurled bombs, a senior police officer said.

Additional security force was rushed to the spot and security was tightened throughout the district to keep the situation under control, sources said.

Tumudibandh area had witnessed tension over an incident of alleged cow slaughter last month.

All roads leading to Tumudibandh were sealed as a precautionary measure, they said.

Though officials suspected involvement of Maoists in the incident, Chouhan alleged it was a conspiracy by the church.