NEW DELHI -- Several hundred Maoist guerrillas beheaded 28 people and burned 13 alive by setting fire to their houses in an attack on a village in India's poverty-striken Bihar state, the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency reported yesterday. Indian officials said it was the bloodiest caste-related violence yet in east India.

Twenty-six women and children were among those who died when the guerrillas surrounded the village of Dalelchak-Baghaura late on Friday night and killed everyone they found, PTI reported.

The Maoist Communist Center asserted responsibility for the killings. It is one of the constantly changing far-left groups dedicated to overthrowing what they see as a feudal system in the northeastern state. All their victims were Rajputs -- high-caste Indians identified with the landowning classes, although in many cases they are nearly as poor as the landless peasants.

PTI said leaflets scattered in the village by the Maoists sought to justify the killings as an act of revolutionary counterviolence and denounced the state's legitimate communist parties as revisionists playing a neutral role in the class struggle.

The killings were in revenge for the deaths of seven extremists last month, which in turn followed the murder of a Rajput landlord, the leaflets said.