Aid groups pull out due to Maoist threats

PTI | ByBinaj Gurubacharya (Associated Press), Kathamandu
May 10, 2004 04:16 PM IST

Ten foreign aid groups are pulling out of far-western areas in Nepal because of attacks and extortion demands by communist rebels.

Ten foreign aid groups are pulling out of areas in far-western Nepal because of attacks and extortion demands by communist rebels, the groups said Monday.

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The organizations from several European countries, Canada and Japan have faced attacks in recent weeks in Dhangadi and surrounding areas, including an abortive bombing on the Lutheran World Federation on April 27 that killed two attackers. The groups, whose projects cater to some of the poorest areas of Nepal, say that the communist rebels have been demanding money from the groups and have threatened further attacks.

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"Over the past few weeks, some Maoists in Nepalgunj and Dhangadhi have made serious demand and threats against a number of development agencies. They have put bombs in the offices and threatened property," the groups said in a statement published in newspapers.

Nepal, which is one of the poorest countries in the world, depends heavily on foreign aid for survival. More than one-third of annual budget comes from donor nations and agencies. The rebels, who have been fighting since 1996 to replace Nepal's monarchy with a communist state, had no immediate reaction to the withdrawal of the aid groups. They have in the past insisted they would not harm any of these agencies except for American-backed organizations.

The German aid group GTZ and the Britain's Department for International Development suspended their support for more than 30,000 former bonded labors, while other groups withdrew from their food aid projects, and infrastructure development work. "The agencies regret the actions which have forced the suspension of these programs. We call upon the Maoists to uphold their stated commitment to respect the Geneva Conventions," the statement said.

"For the sake of future development, we also call on the Maoists to withdraw their demands and stop threats against all development organizations in Nepal," the groups said.

The rebels say they are inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong. The insurgency has claimed more than 9,000 lives. Fighting has escalated since the rebels withdrew from a cease-fire in August.

The groups publishing the appeal includes development agencies from Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Britain, Sweden, European Union, Japan, Norway, Denmark and Finland.

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