Thirteen people were killed and four injured when naxalites triggered a landmine blast in Godha village, about 12 km from Pakhanjur, in Kanker district of Chhattisgarh early Saturday morning.
The incident occurred as a jeep carrying about 20 people, mostly local traders returning to Pakhanjur after attending a weekly market at Sangam, hit the landmine laid by the naxals, police sources said.
Kanker Superintendent of Police Pradeep Gupta said the toll could mount as the bodies torn into pieces were lying scattered around the blast site.
He said three of the seriously injured were referred to the medical college hospital at Raipur.
Bastar Range Inspector General of Police M W Ansari told UNI that the blast seemed to be aimed at terrorising villagers to ensure that the anti-naxal campaign 'Salwa Judum', now focussed in Dantewada district, did not spread to other areas of Bastar region.
Ansari and other senior officials have rushed to the spot.
Security forces, including para-military forces, have been sent to the area to carry out combing operations in the nearby forests.
Communist Party of India-Maoist cadres have stepped up violence in entire Bastar region after the 'Salwa Judum' began nearly six months ago. Cutting across party lines, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the main opposition Congress are also supporting the 'Salwa Judum' movement.
As the Maoists began retaliating against those participating in the movement, nearly 45,000 local tribals from more than 640 villages in south Bastar abandoned their homes and took shelter in the relief camps opened by the state government.
Subsequently, the naxalites also began attacking these relief camps targetting villagers, who were actively associated in the 'Salwa Judum' campaign.