04/10/2006, 00.00
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Three shot dead as protesters clash with police

Passer-by wounded on Saturday dies yesterday. Demonstrators call on the king to restore democratic rule. Government wants to stifle protests to crush Maoist rebellion.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Violent protests against the king spread across Nepal yesterday as a third person was shot dead near Kathmandu. Thousands defied a curfew, burnt government vehicles and clashed with police. Demonstrators want to pressure King Gyanendra to end the absolute rule he imposed 14 months ago and restore democracy.

One protester was killed yesterday in Banepa near the capital when police opened fire as demonstrators tried to storm a police post. Two other died earlier: a woman bystander who died yesterday after she was wounded on Saturday, and a protester shot dead by the army in the western tourist resort town of Pokhara on Saturday.

"We are not afraid of bullets," said protester Prajwal Sharma. "We have to get democracy at any cost, and we will get it".

Nepal's seven main political parties, who began a four-day nationwide general strike and protests on Thursday, said their campaign had been extended indefinitely.

Maoist rebels joined the demonstrations but their goal is to set up a Communist state. For this reason they have started their own anti-government campaign, breaking the curfew, shutting down highways and carrying out acts of vandalism against symbols of the monarchy such as statues of the king.

The government warned of tough measures to curb the demonstrations, saying that police and army have been forced to open fire since Maoist rebels have joined demonstrations and gangs of youth are throwing stones at the police.

Saturday was the 16th anniversary of the introduction of democracy, an experiment that collapsed last year when King Gyanendra took direct control and promised to crush the Maoist rebellion and eliminate corruption.

Many Nepalese at first welcomed the king's move and his promise to hold elections within three years. The place of the monarchy is guaranteed by Nepal's constitution.

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Nepalis celebrate king-opposition agreement, Maoists reject it
Kings offers talks to rebels as he cracks down on them
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