100 men armed with automatic weapons fired indiscriminately at innocent villagers in Bihar's Khagaria district. 16 people were killed on the spot including five children.
Ten people, suspected behind the Naxal attack late on Thursday night, have been arrested by the police.
The attack came after farmers defied a Naxal order of not cultivating a disputed piece of land. The victims belonged to a backward caste.
"Police and other administrative officers are present at the site. In a short while the revenue minister and the DGP will visit the area. The relatives of the victims will be given Rs 1 lakh. Rs 50,000 will be given to the injured as immediate relief from the state government and the CM's Relief Fund," said Bihar CM Nitish Kumar.
Meanwhile, many people gathered at the spot where the attack took place. Bihar Deputy CM Sushil Modi was forced to leave the area by angry crowd.
"The gunmen pulled the victims out of their huts, tied their hands and feet and fired at them, ADG Headquarters Neelmani said.
"Around 100 people, suspected to be Maoists, armed with automatic weapons attacked the village and fired indiscriminately late last night," Inspector General (Operations) S K Bharadwaj said.
Neelmani said the attack was carried out on the villagers by the suspected Naxalites with the intention of grabbing the land.
The victims had been living in makeshift camps on the land, he said.
Senior police officials, IG Operations and IG Bhagalpur are camping at the site and Special Task Force has been deployed for combing operations in the riverine area to nab them, Neelmani said, adding police patrolling has been increased as tension prevailed in the area.
Bodies have been kept at Morkahi police station from where they would be sent to a government hospital for post-mortem.
Bihar has seen a few deadly Naxal attacks in the last couple of months:
On Aug 23, five policemen, including an assistant sub-inspector were killed and two injured in a Naxal attack in Sono Bazar area of Bihar's Jamui district.
On April 22, a day before the country went to the polls in the second phase, four Naxal attacks took place in Bihar's Gaya, Aurangabad and Motihari. Naxals set on fire three oil tankers and five trucks killing 16 people killed.
According to data compiled by the Union Home Ministry, Naxal strikes on economic targets have progressively grown across Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal.
In 2006, 71 Naxal attacks were reported. In 2007, the number went up to 80. In 2008, the figures rose sharply to 109.
In the first half of 2009, 56 Naxal attacks have been reported. (With PTI inputs)