At least 17 people, including several politicians of the Congress Party, died Saturday and 20 were wounded in a Maoist guerrilla attack on the political party's caravan in the state of Chhattisgarh in central India.

The attack took place Saturday afternoon in the Dharba Valley of the Bastar district, and it is feared that the head of the Congress Party in the state, Nand Kumar Patel, and his son have been abducted, the local news agency PTI said.

Among the fatalities was Mahendra Karma, a veteran of the political party and creator in 2005 of an anti-Maoist paramilitary movement, the Salwa Judum or "march for peace," subsequently disbanded after being declared illegal by the courts, and Uday Mudaliar, former state lawmaker.

Ex-state minister Vidya Charan Shukla is badly wounded after being hit by several bullets, and will be taken to a New Delhi hospital, according to PTI.

The caravan was returning from a meeting in the city of Jagdalpur, some 340 kilometers (210 miles) from the state capital Raipur, when the rebels detonated a mine and some 150 Maoists started shooting indiscriminately at the vehicles, according to the account in The Times of India.

The Maoist guerrillas have their strongholds in the so-called "red belt" of India, a strip of territory through the center of the country where they also have their training camps.

The government of India has declared the Maoist rebels the chief threat to internal security.

The Maoists fight for a communist-style agrarian revolution.

Maoist guerrillas are active in at least 12 regions and more than a third of the districts of India, though they represent a "serious" threat in a little more than 10 percent of them. EFE