May 10, 2006

Nepal rebels seize seven people despite truce

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Maoist rebels in Nepal have seized
seven people, including five policemen, the army said on
Wednesday, despite recently declaring a three-month truce.

Last month, the Maoists announced a ceasefire in their
decade-old campaign to overthrow the Himalayan nation's
monarchy after King Gyanendra bowed to street protests and
handed power back to political parties.

"Five personnel of the armed police force were taken
captive by the Maoists on Tuesday from Nawalparasi," an army
officer said.

Nawalparasi is a Maoist stronghold about 200 km (125 miles)
southwest of Kathmandu.

Two civilians were also taken captive in neighboring
Rautahat district on Monday, he said.

At least 13 people -- among them soldiers, policemen and
civilians -- have been kidnapped by the rebels since the
declaration of the truce. The rebels could not be immediately
reached for comment.

On Tuesday, the Maoists said they were handing back land
and houses seized during the decade-old revolt, a rebel
spokesman said, as part of a deal with the main political
parties who took power last month after weeks of anti-king

The properties were seized by the rebels in a bid to
equally distribute assets among the people. However, they were
rarely used though the owners were forced to flee the villages.

"The process of returning the homes and properties
unjustifiably captured has already started," rebel spokesman
Krishna Bahadur Mahara said in a statement late on Tuesday.

Mahara also urged the new multi-party cabinet, formed after
King Gyanendra gave in to the street protests and restored
parliament, to free Maoist leaders and activists held in jails
in Nepal and neighboring India.

He said this would help create an atmosphere for peace
talks with the new government.

Both sides have committed themselves to the talks but no
date has been fixed. The government, however, has matched a
ceasefire by the Maoists.

The two sides are preparing for elections to an assembly
that would write a new constitution and decide the fate of the
monarchy in the Himalayan kingdom.

Maoist rebels have been fighting for one-party communist
rule in the land-locked country since 1996. More than 13,000
people have been killed in the revolt.