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Four Killed as Nepal Police Battle Activists

February 19, 1990|From Times Wire Services

KATMANDU, Nepal — Police battled with thousands of pro-democracy students and political activists in central Katmandu on Sunday, and at least four people were killed in clashes in the Nepalese countryside.

Banned political parties allied in the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) defied an official crackdown to protest the Himalayan kingdom's non-party political system. It was the first demonstration in the capital in 11 years.

Police used batons and tear gas on thousands of protesters who repeatedly regrouped, waving outlawed party flags and chanting: "We want democracy" and "Down with the panchayat system!"--set up in 1960 when King Birendra accused the government of misusing power and banned all political parties.

At least four people were killed when other protests broke out in towns and villages.

Witnesses said two students and a police officer died in a gun battle in Chitwan, a village 95 miles southwest of Katmandu, after activists burned a government forestry truck the police were using.

State-run Radio Nepal, quoting Interior Ministry sources, said another police officer was killed when he was hit by a large stone hurled at his head in Hetauda, 60 miles south of Katmandu.

The radio said police had been injured by stone throwers in two other towns and listed another 10 localities where it said the situation was now under control, implying there had been protests earlier.

The radio, describing the demonstrators as extremists, said seven people were injured in the Katmandu protests.

Opposition sources said they had reports of 150 injuries in protests around the country. They could not confirm a report on All India Radio that at least 10 people were killed.

The government admits detaining more than 500 people before Sunday's launch of the campaign for open political activity, and there has been growing concern about human rights among foreign aid donors to Nepal, one of the world's 10 poorest countries.

In Katmandu, witnesses said demonstrators converged on the main thoroughfare as a government-sponsored procession, led by Prime Minister Marich Shrestha, moved through the streets, chanting, "We love our king and queen more than our lives" and other slogans opposing the protesters.

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