Alleging that he was a police informer, Maoists murdered a tribal sarpanch Bhagaban Kirsani (38) in Malkangiri district of south Odisha on Tuesday night.

His bullet ridden body was located on the outskirts of Kurmanur village under Kalimela police station limits on Wednesday morning. Kirsani happened to be the sarpanch of Kurmanur panchayat of Kalimela block.

According to sources, the killers had left a handwritten poster near the body. Through the poster, Paplur Dalam of the Andhra-Orissa Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) of outlawed CPI (Maoist) organisation claimed responsibility for the murder. Maoists claimed that Kirsani was killed as he was a police informer.

When contacted, Malkangiri district police denied of any link between the murdered elected village leader. According to police sources, a group of around 25 armed Maoists had reached the house of Kirsani at Kurmanur village on Tuesday night. They forced the sarpanch to come with them. It was alleged that after taking him to a deserted spot, he was shot at from a close range. Kirsani died on the spot, police sources said.

Kirsani had received threats from Maoists in the past, sources said. Due to threats of Maoists, he had preferred to leave his village and stay at Chitrakonda for some time. He had returned to his village Kurmanur about a month ago. It was suspected that Maoists may have targeted the man after recent arrest of key Maoist leader Srinivas Sriramulu in adjoining Andhra Pradesh. Sriramulu was a leading man in the AOBSZC and was looking after activities of the ultras in Malkangiri district. Kurmanur village is near Odisha-Andhra border.

It was suspected that the Maoists had felt some persons in Malkangiri district may have leaked information about the movement of Sriramulu to security forces. They may have also killed the sarpanch to keep alive their reign of terror in remote areas of Malkangiri district after arrest of Sriramulu.

Combing operation and patrolling by security forces was intensified in the area following the incident.