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37 Rebels, 3 Police Die in Battle, Nepal Reports

October 12, 2003|From Times Wire Services

KATMANDU, Nepal — At least three policemen and 37 Maoist guerrillas were killed in an overnight battle as the rebels resumed attacks on Nepalese government forces after a nine-day cease-fire, officials said Saturday.

The rebels attacked a police camp in Kusum village, west of the capital, Katmandu, late Friday. Fighting continued until Saturday morning, police said.

A statement from the Interior Ministry said the bodies of 37 rebels were recovered. The ministry also said that three policemen were killed and at least seven injured in the fighting.

Local journalists said they saw half-buried rebel bodies near the site.

"Unexploded bombs ... blood stains, empty alcohol bottles and rice littered the site of the overnight gun battle that lasted for more than six hours," said Krishna Khanal, a local photographer.

There was no immediate comment from the rebels, who in the past have said authorities exaggerate guerrilla casualties.

Officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said police reinforcements were sent to the area and had taken control of it. Roadblocks were set up, and authorities were preparing to impose a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the area.

On Friday, the rebels ended the cease-fire they had been observing during the Hindu Dashain festival, the longest festival in this kingdom. More than 80% of Nepalese are Hindu.

The rebels have been fighting since 1996 to abolish Nepal's constitutional monarchy and set up a communist state. The government has labeled them terrorists.

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