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Nepal Army Working to Foil Blockade

August 23, 2004|From Reuters

KATMANDU, Nepal — Military helicopters provided air cover to vehicles ferrying crucial supplies to the Nepalese capital Sunday, a senior army officer said, as a blockade called by Maoist rebels stretched into its fifth day.

The blockade is the latest tactic by the rebels, who have been fighting for eight years to topple Nepal's constitutional monarchy and establish a communist republic.

"We are providing air cover and have increased troops on the highways to give a sense of security to transport operators and people," Brig. Gen. Rajendra Thapa said.

In Katmandu, more than 5,000 businessmen and trade officials marched through the city demanding peace. Last week, 10 firms, including a luxury hotel in the capital, closed down indefinitely amid rebel threats and a bomb attack on the hotel.

The unprecedented siege of the hill-ringed capital has forced fuel rationing and pushed up prices of some food items.

Officials said 324 vehicles, mostly buses and trucks, had arrived in Katmandu under armed escort from the highway Saturday compared with 139 on Wednesday when the blockade began. But that was still far below the normal daily average of 5,000 vehicles.

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