Ranchi: Bullet-ridden bodies of three CPI (Maoists) activists, apparently killed in a fratricidal feud, were retrieved by police in the small hours of Friday from an interior area of Palamu.
Police also nabbed an injured cadre of the extremist group during a combing operation in the area.
A dispute over distribution of extorted money among the CPI (Maoists) cadres apparently triggered the killings, Palamu superintendent of police Indrajit Mahatha said.
Among the deceased was sub-zonal commander of the outfit Ajay Yadav, who carried a cash reward of Rs 10 lakh on his head. He was wanted in over a dozen cases, including the one over the killing of seven policemen at Kala Pahar.
Yadav had been one of the few remaining top Maoists leaders operating in the Bihar-Jharkhand bordering areas.
The SP said other two deceased have been identified as Surendra Yadav and Dhirendra Yadav, while the injured activist is Uday Oraon, a foot-soldier of the outfit.
Six sophisticated weapons including an AK-47, SLRs and INSAS rifles were recovered from the spot.
Maoist sources, however, claimed a police-backed armed vigilante group, Jharkhand Jan Mukti Parishad (JJMP), carried out the killing at Sita Chulha area under Mohammadganj police station of the district.
Talking to media at Daltonganj, addditional director general of police RK Mallick denied involvement of any vigilante group in the incident. He said the incident was the outcome of an internal dispute among the Maoist cadres.
Police said they rushed to the spot only after getting information about the firing.
We have begun an investigation into the incident and a combing operation in the region has already been launched to nab other ultras who might have fled after the shootout, Mahatha said.
Senior police officials, including the DGP, were planning to visit Mohammadganj to take stock of the situation.
According to reports of the ministry of home affairs, Maoists still hold sway in at least 14 districts of Jharkhand. Around 750 people have lost their lives in left-wing extremist violence in the state over the last five years.