Giridih/Ranchi, Oct 27 (UNI) Stepping up their attacks, Maoist ultras massacred 18 people, including former chief minister Babulal Marandi's son Anup, and injured three in Chilkhari village of Jharkhand's Giridih district early today.
The militants fired indiscriminately on scores of people watching a cultural function.
''While 14 villagers died on the spot, three died later. A woman succumbed to injuries in hospital,'' Superintendent of Police Arun Kumar said at Giridih.
The armed Naxals were initially looking for Babulal Marandi's brother Nunulal who was instrumental in launching a campaign against insurgency. He, however, managed to escape with some injuries.
Babulal's younger son Anup, who married in June, was gunned down on the spot.
''Militants having no human feeling carried out the ghastly act out of frustration as the state government has stepped up counter-insurgency operations in recent months arresting a large number of top rung cadres,'' Chief Minister Madhu Koda told reporters in Ranchi.
Before leaving for the ill-fated site he held a high-level emergency meeting in the state capital to assess the situation and said combing operation was underway in the district and border areas.
Jharkhand Mukti Morcha president Sibu Soren accompanied Mr Koda to Giridih.
Senior police spokesperson R K Mullick said five companies of para-military force from the state and two other companies from Bihar were specially deployed in the combing operation. Besides, personnel of CRPF, special task force and CISF were rushed to the incident site, he said.
The SP said at Giridih about 35 ultras, armed with sophisticated weapons, swooped on the villagers in the wee hours, first exploding bombs and then firing indiscriminately.
The cultural show was organised at the end of a 5-day soccer tournament at the village under Deuri police station.
Mr Marandi who rushed to Giridih admitted that his family members should not have been at the function so late into the night.
His party, Jharkhand Vikas Morcha, has called a state-wide bandh tomorrow portesting the killing.
A report from Patna said Bihar's border with Jharkhand had been sealed.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had ordered the Director General of Police to immediately launch combing operation in joint cooperation with the Jharkhand police. He asked the state authorities to be alert and keep constant vigil on the borders adjoining Jharkhand as the extremists might sneak into Bihar.
EDS: Here pick up suitably from earlier series.