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Raids to force return of Nepal emergency

Kathmandu, Sept. 10 (Reuters): Nepal is set to reimpose emergency rule after two Maoist rebel attacks over the weekend killed more than 100 people, a junior interior minister said today.

“Emergency rule has now become inevitable. We must reimpose it,” Devendra Raj Kandel, minister of state for home affairs, said.

The Maoists, who want to replace the Himalayan kingdom’s monarchy with a Communist republic, have stepped up attacks since a state of emergency imposed late last year expired on August 28.

Officials said at least 79 people, including 43 policemen and 17 soldiers, were killed on Sunday when about 4,000 rebels overran a town in the guerrilla stronghold of west Nepal, setting government offices ablaze, looting banks and seizing weapons from security depots.

“Soldiers also dug out bodies of 17 rebels from a ditch near the town where they were buried by their comrades,” an army official said.

On Saturday, the guerrillas raided a police post in east Nepal, killing 49 policemen.

Officials said Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Debua cancelled a Cabinet meeting today to visit the scene of Sunday’s attack.

“There’s no fighting (there) now. We’re trying to restore the situation to normal,” an army official said.

A defence ministry spokesman said Nepalese soldiers had killed at least 13 Maoist guerrillas in a major counter-offensive two days after the deadly rebel raids. Bhupendra Prasad Poudel said soldiers fought a fierce gunbattle near the site of the Sunday attack. One soldier also died and two were wounded in the clash.

Government officials said the Cabinet was expected to discuss restoring emergency rule later this week.

If the Cabinet rules in favour, it will ask King Gyanendra to proclaim a new state of emergency throughout the impoverished nation.

Emergency rule gives authorities sweeping search and detention powers and was first imposed last November after the rebels walked out of peace talks and launched a spate of deadly raids on security posts.

Opposition parties are against the reimposition of emergency rule in the run-up to parliamentary elections set to start on November 13, saying it would hamper a free and fair vote.

More than 4,900 people have been killed in the revolt — more than 3,000 in the nearly 10 months since peace talks collapsed.

The Maoist revolt began in a few remote villages in 1996 and has mushroomed to extend to nearly all of Nepal.

The Maoists are fighting for a radical redistribution of land and wealth in the mountainous country.

The rebellion has aggravated the economic woes of Nepal, one of the world’s 10 poorest countries, and has crippled tourism, a vital source of income.

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