Maoists struck terror at Komanapalli, a forest village close to the inter-State border with Chhattisgarh, killing two tribal leaders, including a gram sarpanch, in the early hours of Monday.

Three others, including the brother of the sarpanch, were beaten up with the butt of guns.

Some 20 naxalites accompanied by militant members, mainly ‘gothikoyas’ (Maoist), stormed the village around 1 a.m. The naxalites, aged between 20 and 25 years, were armed with sophisticated weapons, according to eye witnesses.

In a swift operation, they split into two batches and dragged out the sarpanch, Kaviti Rajulu (40) and his 70-year-old uncle, Kaviti Subbaiah, keeping their families away at gunpoint. As they were blindfolded and taken to the outskirts, the old man was heard screaming for help. But no one dared to go to their rescue.

The sarpanch was shot dead while his uncle was hacked to death. The Maoists left two letters near the bodies claiming that the tribal leaders had turned into police informers. Both the sarpanch and his uncle, a former village head, enjoyed a good reputation among the people. But they had incurred the displeasure of the Maoists for continuing their loyalty to the CPI(M). The village had for long been a CPI(M) stronghold and the Maoists’ attempts to gain a foothold in the pocket were foiled.

The sarpanch’s brother, Satyanarayana, who escaped the wrath of the Maoists, claimed that there was no provocation from either the family or the villagers. The Maoists neither held out any threat nor warned the sarpanch anytime before. The killings could be an attempt to terrorise the people.

The former MLA, Sunnam Rajaiah, who visited the bereaved families, condemned the killing of innocent tribals in the forest villages. He said the tribes were living in the shadow of fear because of a spurt in the Maoist activities. He wanted steps to instill confidence among the communities living in the naxal-affected pockets. The bodies were sent to Dummugudem for post-mortem.