Indian politician killed at soccer match

Suspected communist rebels have assassinated a prominent politician as he watched a soccer game being played in eastern India.

Suspected communist rebels have assassinated a prominent politician as he watched a soccer game being played in eastern India.

More than a dozen gunmen opened fire on Sunil Mahato late yesterday as he sat on the sidelines of the match marking the Hindu festival of Holi in the town of Bakudia, located in Jharkhand state, said local police chief, Pankaj Darad.

Two bodyguards and a civilian were also killed.

Indian officials blamed Maoist rebels who have been fighting for more than two decades in a large area of rural central and eastern India, demanding land and jobs for agricultural labourers and the poor.

The Maoists, who rarely make public statements, did not claim responsibility.

Despite India's economic boom, many in its hinterland remain deeply impoverished and rebel violence has escalated as the sense of alienation has grown among the poor.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called the Maoists one of the greatest threats India currently faces.

Mr Singh condemned the killing, a statement from his office said. Meanwhile, India's junior home minister, Sriprakash Jaiswal, flew out to Jharkhand for emergency meeting with state officials.

Mr Mahato, 38, the General-Secretary of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha party and a member of Parliament, was hit by seven bullets, Mr Darad said.

Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda blamed the Maoist rebels, known as Naxalites from the Naxalbari region where the movement was born.

"This is a tragic incident which, no doubt, has been perpetrated by Naxalites," Mr Koda said.

Mr Koda said Indian security forces had launched a massive manhunt and have shut the borders of the state, fearing the gunmen would try to flee the area.

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