May 5, 2006

Nepal’s army says rebels kidnap three policemen

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal's Maoist rebels have taken
three policemen captive in a remote area in the west of the
country, the army said on Friday, days after the guerrillas
declared a truce.

The Maoists last week declared a three-month ceasefire in
their decade-old campaign to topple the country's monarchy
after King Gyanendra bowed to street protests and handed power
back to political parties.

The incident is the first reported operation carried out by
the rebels since the declaration of the truce. The rebels could
not be immediately reached for comment.

"Three unarmed policemen were kidnapped by the Maoists
while they were on their way to work," an army officer said.
"They were kidnapped on Wednesday in Bajura and taken to an
unknown place."

Bajura is a Maoist stronghold about 600 km (375 miles) west
of Kathmandu.

Nepal's new multi-party government has matched the rebel
ceasefire, and the Maoists have agreed to join the government
in talks to try and end the conflict in which more than 13,000
people have died since 1996.

Earlier this week, Nepal's parliament approved a proposal
to hold elections for a special assembly to decide the future
of monarchy but the date for the vote has not been set. The
Maoists say they will accept the outcome of the poll.