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Nepal Considering New Laws After Rebels Kill 42

November 25, 2001|From Associated Press

KATMANDU, Nepal — Government leaders met to consider tough anti-terrorism measures Saturday, after Maoist rebels launched a wave of attacks that ended a four-month cease-fire and killed at least 42 soldiers and police.

The rebels, who are fighting to topple Nepal's constitutional monarchy, swooped down on an army post, police stations and government installations across the Himalayan nation late Friday, killing 14 soldiers and at least 28 police, said Khum Bahadur Khadka, minister of physical planning and works.

He said authorities believed that up to 80 rebels died in gun battles. The figures could not be confirmed.

The rebel attacks were the first on the Royal Nepalese Army since the Maoists began their violent campaign in 1996. The insurgency has left at least 1,600 people dead. The military, which is constitutionally charged with defending Nepal from foreign attack, has so far not fought the rebels and has left the task to the police.

Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba met with his council of ministers and leaders of other political parties Saturday to decide how to respond to the assaults.

The ruling Nepali Congress party began an emergency meeting of its leaders today.

"They are terrorists, and we will deal with them accordingly," Khadka said. "We will bring new anti-terrorism laws if necessary to deal with them."

The attacks ended a four-month truce between the government and the rebels. Responding to a call from Deuba, the rebels had stopped attacks on Nepalese police and government targets in July.

But after three rounds of talks, the rebel leader known as Prachanda withdrew from the negotiations Wednesday. He said attempts to find a peaceful resolution had been foiled after the government rejected his demand for a new constitution.

The government supports the constitutional monarchy, which makes the king the ceremonial head of state. The system was adopted in 1990 after a democratic movement toppled the absolute monarchy.

In the offensive, the rebels exploded a bomb in an attack on a truck carrying 46 police officers Saturday in Kalidamar, in Surkhet district, about 300 miles west of Katmandu, the capital, a senior police official said. Five people were killed, the official said.

Elsewhere, the rebels killed 14 soldiers in an attack on the Bhawani Baks Gulma army barracks in Dang, about 200 miles west of Katmandu, Khadka said.

The Maoists also raided a police station nearby, killing nine officers and injuring a dozen others. They then bombed the local jail and freed the prisoners. In Syangja, 125 miles northwest of Katmandu, another attack on a police station left at least 14 officers dead.

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