Maoists attack Congress convoy, two leaders killed; Sonia condemns

Raipur/New Delhi, May 26 (IANS) An over 100-strong group of Maoists Saturday attacked a Congress party convoy, carrying out a landmine blast and then opening fire, resulting in the death of two senior Congress leaders, including Mahendra Karma, and injuries to senior party leader V.C. Shukla.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi termed as "despicable" the Maoist attack that took place in Sukma district around 5.15 p.m. when the leaders were returning to Jagdalpur after holding a parivartan rally.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemned the attack and spoke to Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh. The prime minister offered all help in relief and rescue operations, a twitter post by the PMO said.

Sonia Gandhi, speaking to reporters in New Delhi after holding a late evening meeting at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's official residence, termed the attack as "despicable" and said the party was "devastated".

"Congress colleagues were taking out a parivartan yatra in Bastar and it seems the PCC president and his son, though not confirmed, it seems they may have been kidnapped," Sonia Gandhi said.

"Mahendra Karma and Udai Mudliar, we are told have been killed, and a number of them wounded. Shukla ji (V.C. Shukla) has been hit by bullets in the stomach area. We still don't know his condition."

"We just held a meeting and are getting the details. The PM spoke to the chief minister two hours ago, we don't think the CM has got back. Everyone has been told to render whatever support is possible."

Ravindra Choubey, a Congress leader from Chhattisgarh, confirmed to IANS that Mahendra Karma, the tribal face of Congress in the state, and Udai Mudliar had been killed.

The Congress leaders were on their way to Keshloor from Sukma after attending a Parivartan Yatra meeting at Sukma when a group of about 150 heavily-armed Maoists started indiscriminate firing and triggered a powerful blast targeting their convoy, said reports.

Mukesh Gupta, the additional director deneral of police (intelligence) of Chhattisgarh, told reporters that a convoy of cars was passing in Sukma area when a blast hit the first or the second car.

The blast was followed by heavy firing, in which two people were injured. He said more details are awited.

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