January 15, 2006

Rebel raids will not deter polls: Nepal

By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal will go ahead with next month's
municipal polls despite Maoist attacks around the capital in
which 12 policemen were killed, a minister said on Sunday.

Five blasts rocked areas around Kathmandu on Saturday. The
deadliest attack occurred in Thankot, 10 km (6 miles) from the
capital, where heavily armed rebels tossed a bomb at a police
post and sprayed bullets from automatic rifles, killing 11

In another attack, near the temple town of Bhaktapur, one
policeman was killed and eight people, including seven
policemen, were wounded, state television said.

Two policemen were also missing after the attack, officials

Other blasts around the city caused no injuries.

"These incidents will not deter the elections," junior
information minister Shris Shumsher Rana told Reuters in the
first official comments after the attacks.

"Since the Kathmandu targets have high propaganda value the
utility of such incidents becomes evident for those who would
want to impede elections," Rana said.

"We are prepared for any eventuality," he added.

The attacks were the first near the high-security capital,
home to 1.5 million people, since Maoist rebels ended their
four-month truce on January 2 after the government refused to
match it.

The upsurge in violence follows a period of relative calm
and comes as King Gyanendra, who dismissed the government and
took power last year, prepares to hold civic polls next month
which have been opposed by the Maoists and political parties.

Rana said the Maoists had joined political parties in a
pact to scuttle the elections which King Gyanendra says could
lead to a parliamentary vote next year.

The rebels and mainstream parties recently forged a loose
deal to restore democracy after the king seized power in
February last year, sacked the government, arrested political
leaders and suspended some civil liberties.


Nepali troops went on high alert after the latest attacks.

At Thankot, witnesses said dozens of rebels in plain
clothes arrived in a bus followed by armed guerrillas in
another bus. They carried out the raid then fled into nearby

Unexploded bombs and bullets left after the raid littered
the police post on a highway linking the hill-ringed capital
with the southern plains.

Life in the capital was normal despite the attacks but
residents were dazed.

"We could not sleep the whole night because anything could
have happened to us as well," school teacher Madhukar Khadga,
50, said as he stood outside the raided post near Bhaktapur.

Khadga was among a group of people gathered at the post,
its walls scarred by bullets.

"Fear kept us awake," said Khadga, who had helped evacuate
some of the eight injured to hospital.

The rebels have been fighting to overthrow the Hindu
monarchy and set up a communist state in the Himalayan nation
wedged between Asian giants China and India.

At least 12,500 people have died in the nearly decade-old
conflict that has also devastated the desperately poor economy
sustained by international aid and tourism.

Mainly active in the countryside so far, the rebels have
said they will expand their revolt to Kathmandu and other