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Maoist rampage casts shadow on poll meet

world Updated: May 10, 2007 14:43 IST

IANS
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On the eve of a crucial election meet on Thursday, Nepal's Maoists went on the rampage in remote districts, attacking government offices and causing the death of at least one person -- actions likely to further widen the rift between the rebels and the main political parties.
The guerrillas, who joined the seven-party government last month, have been on the warpath once again, attacking police posts and government offices in the remote far western districts.

On Wednesday, the attack spread to Dang district in mid-western Nepal, a Maoist stronghold.

At least 50 people - most of them Maoists - were injured when the rebels clashed with police in Ghorahi, the main town in the district.

The rebels had gone to the district administration office to give a petition demanding the release of nearly three dozen of their comrades who were arrested in Bardiya district earlier this week for setting fire to two government offices there.

While returning from there, the unruly cadres attacked the land revenue office and the office of the state-owned Nepal Electricity Authority and began pelting policemen with stones when they tried to bring the situation under control.

Police arrested over 30 Maoists, including several rebel journalists, and beefed up security near government offices as well as imposing a ban on rallies near administrative buildings.

Reports from Sankhuwasabha district in northern Nepal said a man in his 70s died in Dhupu village Wednesday after being assaulted by two Maoist cadres over a dispute about a bridge under construction.

About a dozen security personnel were injured in the attacks.

The fresh violence by the Maoists come days after the US issued a fresh list of organisations banned by Washington.

The list continues to include the Maoists though the rebels formally signed a peace pact with the Nepal government last year and pledged to lay down arms.

The US also issued a fresh travel advisory this week, warning citizens that it was still dangerous to travel in Nepal due to continued aggression by the Maoists.

The fresh reports of violence by the guerrillas is likely to cast a shadow over the meeting scheduled to be held in the capital Thursday.

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala is expected to meet the top leaders of the ruling coalition, including Maoist chief Prachanda, to come up with fresh election dates.

Though the government had earlier said it would hold the much-awaited election on June 20, the Election Commission ruled it out on the ground of the worsening security situation, especially in the Terai plains, and the lack of time.

The other parties in the ruling alliance, including Koirala's Nepali Congress, have been fiercely critical of the Maoists, accusing them of reneging on the peace pact and preventing a conducive election environment.

Besides continuing attacks, the rebels have not returned the public property seized during their 10-year "people's war" and are said to be continuing to recruit soldiers, including minors.

Though the insurgency, which has claimed over 11,000 lives, formally ended last year, the guerrillas have continued violence.