Seven policemen and two civilians were killed in an encounter followed by a land mine explosion in Jharkhand's Naxal-infested Latehar district on Saturday. Four other policemen were injured in the attack.
An armed squad of CPI (Maoists) attacked the motorcade of the former Jharkhand assembly speaker and MP from Chatra, Inder Singh Namdhari, inside the Satandia forest.
Namdhari escaped as the policemen and the escort party provided security cover to his vehicle. He was returning to Daltonganj after participating in a function at Mahutand in Latehar when the Maoists opened fire at his cavalcade.
In New Delhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemned the attack and conveyed his deepest condolences to the families of those killed in the attack.
Sources claimed a police vehicle behind Namdhari's car was targetted in the explosion, leading to the deaths of the policemen while two other persons, including a child sitting in a nearby bus, were also killed.
District SP Dev Bihari Sharma confirmed the incident and said an assistant sub-inspector and a constable were among those killed. An eight-year-old child was killed in the cross-firing and an 18-year-old girl received injuries in the incident, he said.
Latehar Additional SP B Chandramohan said all police stations were alerted and a massive combing operation would be carried out in Palamau division under which Latehar falls.
The incident assumes significance as the CPI (Maoist) have called for a two-day Bharat bandh beginning Friday midnight to protest the killing of top Maoist leader Malojula Koteswara Rao alias Kishenji in a police encounter in West Bengal.
Around hundred Maoists had reportedly congregated in Latehar on Friday and pledged revenge for Kishenji's killing.