Hyderabad, Jul 2 (IANS): Top Maoist leader Cherukuri Rajkumar alias Azad, considered second in the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) hierarchy, was gunned down by police in Andhra Pradesh Friday.
Azad, who was also spokesperson of the outlawed group, was killed in a gunfight with police around 3 a.m. in the forests near Jogapur in Adilabad district, about 300 km from here, police said.
Another Maoist guerrilla, who is yet to be identified, was also killed. Police also recovered an AK-47, a 9 mm pistol and two kit bags from the scene of the alleged gunfight.
Azad's killing is a major blow to the Maoist outfit as he was considered the second key leader in the party hierarchy after politburo member Koteswar Rao alias Kishenji.
He carried a reward of Rs.12 lakh on his head and was a member of the politburo politburo of the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist). Hailing from Krishna district, he was associated with the Maoist movement for four decades.
The police, however, did not give details of the incident.
Officials said Azad was involved in dozens of murders, including the killing of Congress legislator Narsa Reddy and a failed assassination attempt on former Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Janardhan Reddy.
The CPI-Maoist has alleged that Azad was killed in a staged shootout. The outlawed outfit has said police picked up Azad in Nagpur, Maharashtra, brought him to Adilabad and killed him.
Maoist sympathiser and revolutionary writer Varavara Rao said here that he would approach the high court against the "fake encounter" and seek that cases be filed against the policemen involved.
This comes as the second biggest blow to Maoist movement after the arrest of London-educated leader and ideologue Kobad Ghandy in New Delhi last year.
Like Ghandy, Azad was also seen as the intellectual face of the outfit. Azad, who did his MTech in Warangal, used to write articles for magazines on Maoist ideology.
Following Azad's death, security agencies have sounded a high alert in Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Chhatttisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and West Bengal.
Azad was gunned down by police two days after Maoists killed 27 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel in Chhattisgarh.