Security tight in Nepal ahead of rebel blockade

Maoists have called for an indefinite blockade of highways, which will be followed by a nationwide strike beginning on April 3.

india Updated: Mar 13, 2006 11:47 IST

Nepal's government tightened security and made arrangements for adequate food supplies for major cities and towns ahead of a planned blockade of highways by communist rebels, officials said on Monday.

The guerrillas have announced an indefinite blockade of key highways starting Tuesday, to be followed by a nationwide general strike beginning on April 3.

Home Minister Kamal Thapa said the government has ensured there will be no shortage of food and other essential supplies, and that troops would be deployed along major highways to provide security for vehicles.

The government also urged people to defy the blockade threat. During previous blockades, rebels have shot drivers, burned trucks and buses, and abducted passengers.

During a similar blockade last year, the rebels gathered on highways in groups and stopped vehicles. They also planted land mines on roads.

Thapa and four other government ministers flew to some southern border towns over the weekend to instruct officials to keep supplies flowing to the cities and also assure the business community about government plans to provide security.

The government also said it would provide compensation for any vehicles damaged and any loss of life or injuries caused by the blockades.

Rebel violence has risen since the guerrillas pulled out of a unilateral cease-fire in January and resumed attacking government positions and troops.

The rebels, who say they are inspired by Chinese revolutionary Mao Zedong, have fought for a decade to replace Nepal's constitutional monarchy with a communist government. The insurgency has claimed nearly 13,000 lives.

First Published: Mar 13, 2006 11:43 IST