Five naxals carrying rewards ranging from Rs 1 lakh to 3 lakh on their heads were killed by their colleagues in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district over the last two weeks, police said on Tuesday.

These killings are the fallout of an ongoing rift within the outlawed CPI (Maoist) over recent murders of civilians by some naxals in south Bastar, they said. Police had last week said top naxal leader Modiyam Vijja had been gunned down by his juniors at the beginning of this month.

“We have got information about the killing of five more naxals by their own outfit members in Bijapur,” Inspector General of Police (Bastar range) Sundarraj P told PTI.

The deceased were identified as Sandip alias Budhram, janmilitia platoon section commander, Lakhu Hemla, Maoists jantana school in-charge, Santosh, head of Dandakaranya Adivasi Kisan Majdoor Sangthan, Dasru Mandavi, head of janatana sarkar group and Kamlu Punem, militia platoon commander, he said.

All the five deceased were carrying rewards ranging from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 3 lakh on their heads, he said.

Of them, four were active in Gangaloor area committee of Maoists, which was being headed by Vijja while Santosh was active in Pamed area committee, the IG said, adding that more details on the killings are being collected.

Vijja, a ‘divisional committee member’ cadre who was involved in killing of villagers in Bijapur, was shot dead on October 1, Sundarraj said.

“Police had been receiving information about differences between senior and lower-rung cadres with regard to the brutal approach adopted by top ultras towards local villagers from a couple of months.

“The recent killings of villagers by naxals in Bijapur after branding them as police informers further escalated the tension,” the IG said.

He said the killing of six naxals, including Vijja, seems like eruption of a gang war between different groups within the banned outfit.

Terming it as a “crucial” development, the senior police officer said security forces have been keeping a close watch on happenings within the Maoist organisation and are taking strategic action accordingly.

Since the beginning of this year, 43 civilians have been killed in naxal-related incidents in Bastar division, including 11 in four districts in September, he added.