Kathmandu, Sept. 9 (Reuters): Maoist rebels killed at least 56 policemen and soldiers when they overran a town in western Nepal in the second major attack in as many days, a government official said today.
“Fifty-six bodies — 40 policemen and 16 soldiers — have been recovered from the scene in western Nepal,” junior home minister Devendra Raj Kandel said. Last night’s attack came a day after guerrillas killed 49 policemen during an attack on a police post in east Nepal.
The attacks were among the biggest in recent months in the desperately poor Himalayan nation by the rebels, who are fighting to topple the constitutional monarchy and set up a one-party communist republic.
The Maoists have stepped up raids on security forces and government offices and installations in recent weeks after a four-month lull. Helicopter pilots flying in reinforcements said smoke was still billowing from buildings set ablaze by the rebels who invaded the remote town of Sandhikharka, 300 km west of Kathmandu, around midnight today.
State television had earlier reported 59 police and soldiers were killed in last night’s raid but Kandel said 56 were confirmed dead and three government officials were missing and believed to have been abducted by the rebels.
Officials said at least 29 security men were wounded, 10 critically. “We’re now rescuing the injured” using helicopters, home minister Khum Bahadur Khadka said. Troops were being dropped from helicopters in nearby areas to reinforce soldiers around the town.
Details were still patchy as communications links to the town had been severed.
In May, Nepali forces launched major raids on rebel hideouts in west Nepal, the Maoists’ stronghold, and killed hundreds of guerrillas.