Malkangiri: Panic gripped Mathili area of Malkangiri district after a group of armed Maoists allegedly torched a bus near Mundaguda here late last night.

As per reports, a group of 20-25 armed Maoists stopped the bus travelling from Mahupadar to Motu near Mundaguda area and asked the passengers to deboard the vehicle. Later they set afire the bus after pouring diesel.

The ultras also thrashed the staff of the vehicle and snatched their mobile phones. However, the passengers were allowed to leave the spot unhurt, sources said.

Reportedly after a brief lull, the Maoists have resorted to violence in Mathili area of Malkangiri district as they are observing the 'Pratibada Saptaha'. The red rebels of Bastar division also left behind posters and banners asking people to support the protest week.

The security personnel have launched a search operation in the area to nab the ultras.

In Nuapada, Maoists have also put up posters at some government buses in Boden area asking people to observe Bharat bandh on January 31. The banner mentioned that it was put up by Odisha State Maoist Committee.

Meanwhile, three Maoists were killed in an encounter with the security personnel in West Singhbhum district of Jharkhand early morning today. Two AK-47 rifles, one 303 and two pistols were seized from the spot.