A local RSS leader, who was arrested in connection with anti-Christian riots last year, was gunned down by suspected Maoists in Orissa's communally sensitive Kandhamal district early on Thursday.
About 15 armed ultras struck Rudiguma village, about 145 km from Phulbani, in the wee hours and shot dead Prabhat Panigrahi, who was staying at an RSS activist's house, police said.
A massive combing operation has been launched to nab the assailants. Additional forces have been deployed in and around the village as a precautionary measure to prevent any untoward incident.
As the Maoists had blocked the road between Kotagada and Rudiguma by felling trees, it took longer time for the police to reach the spot after clearing the road, the police said.
Panigrahi had been arrested for alleged involvement in communal riots that had rocked Kandhamal after the killing of VHP leader Laxmanananda Saraswati and four others on August 23, 2008, sources said.
He had been released from Baliguda jail on bail on March 14. Panigrahi, who hails from nearby Bandapipili village, was in the hit list of the ultras, the sources said.