April 11, 2006

Nepal police open fire to break anti-king protests

By Y.P. Rajesh and Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepali troops opened fire and
baton-charged protesters who burned tires, chanted slogans and
clashed with government forces on Tuesday before a fresh curfew
took hold on the sixth day of mass protests against the king.

Tuesday's protests came as international pressure increased
on King Gyanendra to end his crackdown, which has killed three
people and wounded hundreds of demonstrators.

The street campaign is the most intense since 58-year-old
Gyanendra sacked the government and grabbed power 14 months

Some analysts say it is only a matter of time before the
king runs out of options. They say five days of protests and
clashes, in many places where shoot-on-sight curfews were in
force, showed more ordinary people were coming out openly
against him.

But sources close to the palace said the king, whom some
analysts describe as a stubborn ruler, was unlikely to relent.

Troops baton charged, tear gassed and then opened fire to
disperse more than 500 slogan-shouting demonstrators in the
Kathmandu suburb of Gongabu, wounding at least 50 protesters, a
Reuters reporter at the scene said.

It was the first time troops opened fire in the capital
during the latest anti-king campaign.

Troops also opened fire at a meeting called in the western
tourist resort town of Pokhara to mourn a protester shot dead
by the army there on Saturday, wounding two people, witnesses

In another Kathmandu suburb, about 500 youths burned tires
on the road, chanting "We want Democracy" and "Gyanendra leave
the country." Riot police charged at them with batons and beat
them up, wounding at least two people before the crowd was

The latest series of demonstrations and a nationwide
general strike began last Thursday in an attempt to force
Gyanendra to step down and hand power to an all-party

The campaign, backed by Maoist insurgents, had been due to
end on Sunday but was extended indefinitely as stringent
security measures prevented big rallies against the king.


So far, more than 300 people have been wounded and about
1,500 protesters detained during protests, the parties said.

Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders said
97 journalists had been detained and 24 wounded across the

While the mass campaign has plunged the nation deeper into
turmoil, the king has stayed away from the capital for nearly
two months, making an extended tour of the countryside.

The king says he was forced to take absolute power after
politicians failed to quell a violent Maoist revolt aimed at
toppling the monarchy, which has killed more than 13,000 people
in the impoverished Himalayan country.

The revolt has also wrecked the economy of one of the
poorest countries in the world which lives off aid and tourism.

The State Department issued a sharp rebuke to the king on
Monday for his handling of the protests, saying the decision to
impose palace rule had failed "in every regard."

"The king's continuing failure to bring the parties back
into a process to restore democracy has compounded the
problem," spokesman Sean McCormack said in Washington. "The
United States calls upon the king to restore democracy

Rights group Amnesty International urged the royalist
government to rein in the security forces, saying it feared an
increase in violence in the coming days.

"Restricting peaceful demonstrations by ban orders and
curfews and arbitrarily arresting hundreds of people only
inflames an already volatile situation," it said in a

But the state-run newspaper Rising Nepal said the campaign
was not peaceful and Maoist rebels had infiltrated the protests
to create trouble, a charge the political parties have denied.

"The seven political parties would be responsible for any
unfortunate event that may occur during their protests," it
said in an editorial on Tuesday.