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Fresh fighting in Nepal kills eight soldiers

The latest violence in the country's decade-old insurgency came one day after the rebels ended a highway blockade called by Maoists.

india Updated: Mar 20, 2006 14:09 IST

Communist rebels ambushed an army patrol in central Nepal on Monday, sparking a clash that killed at least eight soldiers and one insurgent, officials said.

The latest violence in the country's decade-old insurgency came one day after the rebels ended a highway blockade that had crippled life across the country for six days.

Buses on Monday were transporting thousands of stranded travelers and trucks brought in much-needed fuel, food and supplies into Nepal's capital, Kathmandu, after the roads were cleared.

The attack in central Nepal took place near an army camp at Bhakundebeshi, about 80 kilometers east of Kathmandu.

The soldiers were out on a patrol to investigate suspicions that rebels had blocked the camp's water supply when they were attacked, security officials said.

The officials, who would not be identified because they are not authorised to speak to reporters, said rebels hiding on the side of a road detonated an explosion and then began firing on the army team, killing at least eight soldiers.

One rebel was confirmed killed in the ensuing gunbattle, the officials said.

Reinforcement were sent to the area and soldiers combed the mountain terrain to search for the attackers.

At the Nagdhunga checkpoint onto the Prithvi highway, the main route out of Katmandu, hundreds of vehicles passed through, taking passengers who had been stranded since the blockade began. March 14.

Nepal has no railroads, and trucks haul virtually all fuel, food and other supplies. Trucks bringing in milk, flour, vegetables and fruits began to enter the capital on Monday morning, according to police officials at the checkpoint.

The rebels had cut off major cities and towns as part of their campaign to topple Nepal's royalist government, but agreed on Sunday to heed pleas by the country's main political parties to end the blockade.

At a meeting Sunday, the rebels and the country's alliance of seven major political parties agreed to step up pressure on King Gyanendra, who dissolved the government and seized total control of the country in February last year.

The rebels also called off plans for an indefinite general strike starting April 3 and said they would instead support a separate April 6-9 general strike called by the seven parties.

"There could be more agitation and protests in the future as the situation demands," rebel leaders Prachanda and Baburam Bhattarai said in a statement.

Gyanendra has said he seized control of the government to halt corruption and quell the communist insurgency.

The rebels have fought for a decade to replace the monarchy with a communist government. The conflict has claimed nearly 13,000 lives.

The rebels have recently softened their demand for a communist state and have been working with the political parties to restore democracy.

The rebels believe an interim government should be formed to hold elections for a special assembly to prepare a new constitution.

The political parties, however, want to reinstate the dissolved parliament and then conduct a special assembly election. Rebel violence has risen since the guerrillas ended a unilateral cease-fire in January and resumed attacks on government positions and troops.

First Published: Mar 20, 2006 14:09 IST