March 5, 2006

Maoist rebels attack Nepal town, free prisoners

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Hundreds of Maoist rebels raided a
town in eastern Nepal, bombing government buildings and freeing
dozens of prisoners from a local jail, officials said on

A policeman and at least one guerrilla were killed in the
overnight attack in Ilam, a tea-growing area bordering India,
about 600 km (375 miles) east of Kathmandu, they said.

The guerrillas, who specialize in hit-and-run attacks,
drove into Ilam in buses and trucks, attacking government
buildings and shooting at security posts, residents said.

"The Maoists also stormed the local jail and freed more
than 100 prisoners including some Maoists," a police officer
said by phone.

He said the rebels, who are fighting to overthrow Nepal's
constitutional monarchy, bombed or set fire to the district
administration office building, the revenue office and the
local municipal council office.

"We spent the night in terror," Ilam housewife Kamala
Bhattarai told Reuters. "We could hear gun shots and explosions
for several hours."

More than a dozen security troops were wounded in the

The rebels also set ablaze the home of the mayor who was
elected in last month's municipal elections opposed by the
Maoists, journalist Rohit Chandra Bhattarai said.

"The building is still smoldering. No one has come out of
their homes. People are scared," he said.

Bhattarai said the fighting continued until dawn when an
army helicopter was seen and the rebels sped away in buses.

The Maoists, fighting since 1996 for a single party
communist state, have stepped up attacks since they ended their
unilateral truce in January after the royalist government
failed to reciprocate.

More than 13,000 people have been killed in the revolt that
has shattered Nepal's aid dependent economy, one of the world's
10 poorest.