Three protesters killed in Nepal

Meanwhile, King Gyanendra had reportedly offered the PM's post to Bhattarai, which the latter declined. Pics

india Updated: Apr 20, 2006 17:41 IST

Nepalese police opened fire on thousands of pro-democracy protesters as they marched toward the capital on Thursday, killing at least three people and wounding more than 40, witnesses and doctors said.

Police began firing tear gas and shooting with rubber and live bullets after the demonstrators gathered in the Kalanki area on the western edge of Kathmandu and started marching toward the city, said Kunjan Aryal of INSEC-Nepal, a Kathmandu-based rights group.

Doctors at Model hospital in Kathmandu said two people were killed. The injured were in critical condition mostly with head injuries.

There was no immediate response on the firing from government officials, who imposed the 2 am-8 pm curfew to foil a mass protest by opposition political parties to demand King Gyanendra loosen his grip on power.

Earlier, a special Indian envoy carried a message on the Nepal crisis to King Gyanendra on Thursday with the capital under strict curfew.

Karan Singh showed photographers a sealed letter he brought from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, but made no comment before starting his royal audience at the Narayan Hiti palace in Kathmandu.

Outside, large numbers of soldiers and police armed with shoot-at-sight orders enforced the curfew in a bid to thwart a planned mass rally marking the start of the third week of a general strike.

The curfew was declared after witnesses said four protesters were shot dead and many more wounded during clashes on Wednesday in eastern Nepal, the worst violence of a two-week campaign to end the King's absolute rule.

Ahead of the talks, India renewed calls for Gyanendra to restore democracy and to hold a meaningful dialogue with the political groups he sidelined in February 2005.

"There should be peace and stability in Nepal and we would like it to be a flourishing democracy and hope all concerned would work to realise this," Prime Minister Singh said Wednesday night.

Asked if India has plans to send a peacekeeping force to the Himalayan kingdom, the Manmohan Singh said: "We have not reached that stage.

"It is a step-by-step process. The problems can be resolved by various Nepalese groups."

Karan Singh has warned that civil unrest was "spinning out of control".

First Published: Apr 20, 2006 09:08 IST