03/22/2006, 00.00
NEPAL
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New wave of violence and death

by Prakash Dubey

Increased Maoist attacks follow the lifting of their general road blockade. A bomb goes off in an office in Kathmandu.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – An upsurge in Maoist rebel violence has followed their lifting of a general road blockade declared on 14 March. More than 54 people have been killed within a week. Last night, an explosion in the capital injured two more guards.

The blast went off in the office of a nature conservation trust, which is linked to Prince Paras, son of King Gyanendra.

The two preceding days saw two large-scale offensives in the districts of Kavre, 40km east of Kathmandu, and Jhapa, 600km away from the capital, on the Indian border. The rebels, according to the Royal Nepalese Army, killed at least 29 soldiers and lost three men. Meanwhile, in a clash in the western district of Dhading, 30km from Kathmandu, at least 20 rebels died.

The three clashes also claimed the lives of three civilians and injured 40 people.

The new attacks came on the heels of a Maoist rebel decision to lift a general road blockade they imposed on 20 March. The blockage was a hard blow for the population, "depriving them of their daily means of survival", a human rights activist, Ram Ekbal Choudhary, told AsiaNews. "Everyone hoped that normalcy would return to the country. But it seems the country has turned into a wide ranging battle field and fear is everywhere."

The blockade was lifted only after the main political parties asked the Maoists to do so, arguing that it prevented people from working and took away their livelihood. But there was also the fear that the blockade would give King Gyanendra a reason to implement another totalitarian move and the "macabre militarization" of the country.

Choudhary continued: "Only a peaceful struggle would oblige the King not to unleash his army to brutally suppress all protests. The King knows resorting to force to suppress the peaceful struggle of the parties and people could further alienate the international community and provoke protests.

"But all of a sudden, there has been a quantum jump in violence which gives the King an easy excuse to use force against any opposition, even political parties. Even the international community will keep mum as nobody is going to espouse such violence triggered by the Maoists."

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