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Violence mars Nepal's indefinite blockade

The blockade was called by Maoist rebels to pressure King Gyanendra's government into heeding their demand for a republic.

india Updated: Mar 16, 2006 11:57 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

Violence marred the indefinite blockade of Nepal's key cities called by the Maoist guerrillas with at least five people being killed in separate incidents, including three civilians.

The communist rebels, who began blocking important highways from Tuesday to pressure King Gyanendra's government into heeding their demand for a republic, resorted to arson, bombs and bullets to get the people obey their call.

Going back on their word not to attack unarmed people, even if they were security personnel or criminals, the insurgents killed two civilians in Mainahia village in Rupandehi district in southwestern Nepal on Wednesday.

The rebels had abducted about a dozen civilians from the district Tuesday, saying the men were wanted for "investigation" into allegations that they were involved in rape, robbery and stealing or were spying for security forces.

Two of the captives were shot dead on Wednesday though the Maoists claim their "people's courts" do not impose death sentences.

The guerrillas also fired at an ambulance in western Nepal Tuesday night, injuring a septuagenarian who was taking his nine-year-old grandson, diagnosed with pneumonia, to hospital.

Maoist supremo Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda issued a statement from underground Wednesday, saying his party would not attack vehicles belonging to the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

However, despite earlier assurances by the leader that humanitarian agencies would not be harmed, guerrillas have continued to attack them repeatedly, later calling the attacks errors.

Two Maoists were killed in Dhading district northwest of capital city Kathmandu as security forces clashed with the guerrillas on Tuesday night with the gunfight continuing till Wednesday morning.

However, the killing that caused the greatest public outrage was the death of a civilian in Nepalgunj city due to drunken firing by a policeman.

Sahadev Prasad Sharma, who ran a local school and was also the priest of a temple in the key city of Banke in midwestern Nepal, was in the temple on Wednesday evening when three tipsy policemen began fighting among themselves.

One of the cops pulled out a gun and fired indiscriminately, hitting the priest and another civilian.

Sharma's death comes even as the memory of another civilian carnage by an inebriated soldier is still fresh in people's minds.

Thirteen villagers were killed when a drunken soldier started firing during a religious fair in the tourist town of Nagarkot last year, triggering severe public condemnation.

The blockade, it was expected, would start stinging from Thursday as Nepal spent the earlier two days celebrating Holi, the festival of colours.

The pressured government, which had earlier offered cash rewards to the Maoists to surrender, began holding out carrots and sticks to transporters who were not plying during the blockade.

The labour and transport ministry said it would pay an extra 20 per cent compensation for vehicles damaged by the guerrillas and an extra 100 per cent if the driver or helper was killed.

Underlying the persuasion was the threat that the state would suspend or cancel the permits of transporters who did not ply during the blockade.

First Published: Mar 16, 2006 11:52 IST