April 20, 2006

Nepali police kill 3 protesters

By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepali police opened fire to block
tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters marching into
Kathmandu on Thursday to confront King Gyanendra, killing at
least three people and wounding up to 100.

But there were signs the embattled monarch was looking for
a way to end the showdown with a seven-party alliance
spearheading a campaign against his rule, said an Indian envoy
who visited him to urge a speedy reconciliation.

"Now the ball is squarely in the court of the king," Karan
Singh, an Indian lawmaker, told reporters in New Delhi on his
return from Kathmandu.

"I am hopeful that very shortly some sort of announcement
will be made by him which will help considerably defuse the
situation," Singh added.

Officials confirmed that three people had been killed in
police firing to enforce a strict curfew in the capital, a
clampdown ordered to prevent protesters marching on the palace.

Over 100,000 people gathered at various suburbs around the
capital's ring road and police opened fire with rubber bullets
and live rounds at three or four places to push back the
crowds, witnesses said.

Three bodies with gunshot wounds and about 40 injured
people were brought to the Kathmandu Model Hospital from the
western suburb of Kalanki, doctors said.

Scores of other injured were taken to other hospitals. In
all, about 100 people were wounded, witnesses said.

"Police opened indiscriminate fire," said Kundan Aryal, a
human rights group volunteer who helped take wounded to the
Model Hospital from Kalanki.

"They used batons and fired rubber and live bullets. They
chased the fleeing protesters. It was a massive firing."

At least eight people have been killed previously and
hundreds wounded in police action against demonstrators since
the alliance launched crippling protests 15 days ago to demand
restoration of multi-party democracy.

A general strike has prevented the movement of goods and
people across the impoverished and aid-dependent nation.

The parties had planned massive rallies on Thursday to
bring the movement to a head, but the royalist government
clamped a curfew to prevent people from going outdoors.

"So many people have come out on the street despite the
curfew and crackdown," said Krishna Prasad Sitaula, a leader of
the Nepali Congress, the largest party in the coalition.

"It's an indication that our movement has succeeded. Only
the result has to be announced. We will continue this until the
result comes in favor of the people."

The parties said the momentum would be kept up and a
similar attempt to march into the city would be made on Friday.


Away from the capital, tens of thousands protested in other
parts of the landlocked kingdom, aid workers and activists

But the interior of Kathmandu, a city of 1.5 million
people, was deserted except for police and troops on patrol.

The gates of Narayanhity Palace, the king's city residence,
were closed and an armored car with a machinegun was on patrol.
All shops on the usually busy Durbar Street leading to the
palace were shut, and guests in hotels were barred from

"I can't even see a dog on the street," said Manohar
Acharya, a resident of the New Road business district.

Unlike for previous curfews, journalists too were told to
stay indoors this time. The ban took effect at 2 a.m. (2015 GMT
Wednesday) and was to last until 8 p.m. (1415 GMT).

Diplomats, including ambassadors, and even government
ministers were not allowed outdoors. Police were carrying out
emergency services.

King Gyanendra sacked the government and took full powers
in February 2005, vowing to crush a decade-old Maoist revolt in
which more than 13,000 people have died.

He is now under tremendous international pressure to
restore democracy, with giant neighbor India taking a leading

Singh, the envoy, said he had made India's position clear.

"Obviously, India is for democratization, for the
restoration of multi-party democracy and is deeply concerned
over the difficulties that the people of Nepal are facing ...
economic difficulties, political difficulties and a general
breakdown of law and order, so all those concerns were very
clearly expressed," he said.

"The onus is on the king to stop the suffering of his
people," said Mathew Kahane, chief U.N. representative in

"But ultimately it is the head of state and government who
takes those responsibilities. We cannot substitute ourselves
for the Nepali authorities," he told Reuters.