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12 killed in Nepal clashes

Kathmandu, Nov. 14 (Agencies): At least 12 people, mostly Maoist rebels, have been killed in violence in Nepal in the past 24 hours, officials said today.

Two people were killed and 20 injured in eastern Nepal today when a bus they were in ran over a landmine believed to have been planted by Maoist rebels, police said. The attack followed a three-day national general strike ending yesterday, called by the rebels who are fighting to set up a Communist republic in the Himalayan kingdom.

More than 7,100 people have died in the six-year revolt.

Police said many of the injured were in a critical condition in hospital after the blast, which occurred on a bridge at Halhale, 200 km east of Kathmandu.

The bus was bound for the capital from the town of Charikot.

It was not immediately known how many people were in the bus. “It (the mine) went off as the first bus after the strike was crossing the bridge,” the police official said. The defence ministry said soldiers gunned down nine guerrillas in gunbattles late yesterday in west Nepal, a Maoist stronghold.

A civilian was killed by the guerrillas during another battle with soldiers in the west on the same day. The rebels called the strike, which shut schools, shops and businesses, to protest against King Gyanendra’s sacking of Nepal’s elected government in a row over the timing of elections.

The sacking plunged the revolt-racked kingdom, still recovering from last year’s massacre of most of the royal family by a drunken crown prince, into a new crisis.

Journalist released

The editor of a small newspaper who was arrested for accusing a police official of taking bribes was released on bail today.

Home minister Dharma Bahadur Thapa said Tikaram Rai, editor of the Aparanha daily, was released after paying 500 rupees ($7) bail.

He was arrested on Tuesday under Nepal’s Public Offence Act, after his newspaper published an article alleging that police official Basanta Kuwar had taken bribes for issuing drivers’ licenses. Kuwar said the article was an attempt at character assassination.

Nepal has no laws against libel or defamation. The Public Offence Act is used for cases of criminal assault. “We were able to free Rai this morning after convincing the police officials that they could not hold him in custody,” said Taranath Dahal, president of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists.

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