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Death Toll in Nepal Battle Rises to 160

Asia: Many of the victims are police officers beheaded by Maoist rebels, authorities say.

April 14, 2002|From Associated Press

SATBARIYA, Nepal — Marking the worst battle in a 6-year-old guerrilla war, Nepalese authorities Saturday raised the death toll from a night of fighting to about 160--many of them police beheaded by Maoist rebels.

The jump in the toll--the government had reported 54 deaths Friday--was announced by local officials to journalists who traveled overnight by road to the two remote towns in western Nepal that saw most of the fighting Thursday night and early Friday.

Police Inspector Padam Vohra said 60 police officers were killed Thursday while defending the house of Interior Security Minister Khum Bahadur Khadka from a rebel attack. An additional 27 officers who surrendered were beheaded, and two were burned alive, he said. About 30 officers survived.

Vohra said 11 police officers were killed in an attack on a police station in the nearby town of Lamahi. The two attacks set off overnight gun battles that left hundreds of rebels dead, he said.

Witnesses saw at least 60 bodies of guerrillas half-buried along a dry riverbed a few miles from the minister's house. The bodies had apparently been left by the retreating guerrillas.

Thwran Thaket, a senior police constable, said he believed that the rebels took many more fallen comrades in two trucks along with 95 rifles and three machine guns looted from the slain officers.

The minister's house was gutted by fire. Two burned sedans were parked outside the 10-foot-high wall.

On the ground were blotches of blood, shreds of police uniforms, destroyed sofas and cupboards, and twisted, blackened bicycles. Glass shards were scattered everywhere.

The 120 paramilitary police guarding the house were surrounded by thousands of rebels, witnesses said.

"They are so ferocious that they killed officers . . . even after they surrendered," Vohra said. "They were stripped naked, then paraded, and finally beheaded with khukris," he said, referring to traditional Nepalese knives.

The attacks occurred in Dang district, about 190 miles west of the capital, Katmandu.

"The situation is so bad that I don't know how long I will live," said the Dang district's chief administrator, M.P. Yadav.

"There is nobody to fight them. There is no equipment to fight them. We are helpless, hapless," he said.

Also Saturday, a bomb exploded near a school in the northwestern town of Laltin Bazaar, killing three people, police said.

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