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7 killed in Nepal's Viagra war

Six people have been arrested after a turf war over what is known as Nepal's `herbal Viagra' erupted in a remote northern district, resulting in the death of seven villagers, police said on Friday.

world Updated: Jul 03, 2009 15:33 IST

Six people have been arrested after a turf war over what is known as Nepal's `herbal Viagra' erupted in a remote northern district, resulting in the death of seven villagers, police said on Friday.

All seven victims are from the Gorkha community of western Nepal, known for their valour and sought by the Indian and British Armies. Most of them are teenagers.

The violence erupted in Nar, a village in Manang district, once part of an ancient Tibetan kingdom, when a group from Gorkha district went there in the hope of collecting the much sought-after yarsagumba, a herb believed to have high aphrodisiac qualities.

The yarsagumba or cordyceps sinesis, a fungus that resembles caterpillars, grows above 3,500m in the Himalayan mountain slopes of Nepal. It is believed to have medicinal powers as well as the ability to cure impotence.

Every year, from May to June, villages in northern Nepal empty out and schools remain closed as locals, including children, flock to the slopes to pick the herb, which can earn them nearly $35 daily. The demand for the herb, known as the Himalayan herbal Viagra, has fuelled animosity between villages.

The pickers from Gorkha were stopped by the villagers of Nar from entering the forest. It led to a clash between the two groups during which the villagers, far outnumbering the intruders, beat five of them to death. While trying to flee, two more fell to their death from the mountainside.

Though the incident occurred June 10, because of the remoteness of the village and its inaccessibility, it became known only after the victims' families, alarmed at their long absence, informed police.

On Thursday, police reached Nar and investigations revealed the death of seven people. Six villagers have been arrested for the deaths, police said.

Two years ago, at least 16 people died in Dolpa district in north Nepal, where the yarsagumba has the highest growth, when they were buried in sudden snowfall.