At least three Congress workers were killed and four others injured when Chhattisgarh Pradesh Congress Committee president Nand Kumar Patel’s road convoy was struck by a powerful Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in Raipur district. While Mr. Patel’s vehicle escaped unscathed, a trailing vehicle carrying party workers was destroyed in the blast.

Police officials said three or four men had been killed in the blast, but were awaiting confirmation of the final death toll. The banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) is believed to be behind the attack, but is yet to claim responsibility.

In May this year, Maoist cadres killed nine police officers including an Assistant Superintendent of Police in an ambush in the same area. Police officers surmise that the operation was probably carried out by an Orissa-based faction that crossed the border to conduct the attack.

The incident occurred at about 5:30 p.m. at Udanti puliya, about 180 km from State capital Raipur. Mr. Patel was returning from addressing a farmer’s meeting in Durvagudi village when his convoy was attacked.

“The blast occurred 12 to 15 minutes after Mr. Patel’s vehicle had crossed the spot. Maoists also opened fire on the trailing vehicles,” said Assistant Director General of Police Ram Niwas. It is believed that at least one of the deaths was caused when a passenger in a trailing vehicle was struck by a bullet.

In a television interview, Mr. Patel expressed disbelief at the lack of security and said the police was informed of the Congress’s intention to stage a farmers’ gathering in the area.

“Naxalism has reached the doorstep of the State capital. The State president’s convoy has been attacked,” said PCC member Shailesh Trivedi, “This is the first time that the workers of a democratic party like the Congress have been attacked while returning from a rally.”