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Nepal church blast mastermind caught

More than three months after a bomb went off during mass at one of Nepal's oldest churches, killing three women -- two of them Indians, police on Sunday arrested the mastermind who is the head of an outlawed Hindu militant organisation.

world Updated: Sep 06, 2009 14:04 IST

More than three months after a bomb went off during mass at one of Nepal's oldest churches, killing three women -- two of them Indians, police on Sunday arrested the mastermind who is the head of an outlawed Hindu militant organisation.

Ram Prasad Mainali, chief of the Nepal Defence Army, a shadowy outfit that had asked all Christians and Muslims to leave Nepal or face dire consequences, was caught with three associates from southeast Nepal.

The four men were said to be armed and were caught from Rajgarh between Jhapa and Sunsari districts in eastern Nepal.

Mainali and his NDA, that claims to be training Hindu suicide bombers, had taken responsibility for an explosion at the Assumption Church in Kathmandu Valley's Dhobighat area in May, killing a schoolgirl and two women during mass.

Soon after the blast, police had arrested Sita Thapa, who reportedly admitted to having planted the bomb in the prayer hall, after being paid by the NDA.

Though Thapa is behind bars with police having charged her with the three deaths, Mainali and the NDA had been at large, continuing to intimidate Nepal's Christian community with extortion calls and death threats.

The NDA has also owned responsibility for the killing of an Indian priest in southern Nepal last year, Father John Prakash Moyalan, and setting off bombs in two mosques in southern Nepal killing two men during prayers.

The Christian community treated the news of the arrest with cautious joy.

"We thank the government of Nepal for executing its duty," said Father Robin Rai, a parish priest at the Assumption Church. "We regret the crimes committed against humanity."

However, the priest said that Mainali's arrest did not mean the anti-Christian attacks would stop.

"A few people have been arrested. But the network still remains. Only the future will show what happens, Rai said.

The NDA's success in intimidating the Christian community has inspired other extortionist groups.

A new outfit calling itself the National Defence Party and claiming to be the mother organisation of the NDA has renewed the 'quit Nepal' threat to Christians, warning that it would soon start a movement to restore Hinduism as the state religion in the country.