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Nepal troops kill 40 rebels in skirmish

Kathmandu, Nov. 23 (Reuters): Nepali soldiers blocked escape routes of Maoist rebels today after a fierce overnight gun battle in the remote west of the country that newspapers said killed more than 40 guerrillas.

The soldiers battled rebels at Thulo Kavre village in the heavily forested Lamjung district, 150 km west of Kathmandu, late yesterday.

“We are blocking the escape routes and pursuing rebels who appear to be fleeing after the heavy fighting,” one army official said. He said the rebels, fighting to replace a constitutional monarchy with Communist rule, fired sporadically at soldiers from dense hilly forests throughout today and authorities were unable to confirm casualty figures.

“I have no information about casualties since I am waiting for news from the site of the battle,” another official said.

Elsewhere, soldiers killed at least five rebels in gun battles in their ongoing crackdown on the six-year old revolt, the defence ministry said.

Thousands of Maoist rebels stormed two remote Nepali towns last week and fought pitched battles with security forces resulting in at least 118 deaths. The US state department yesterday advised Americans to consider putting off travel to Nepal after Maoist rebels claimed responsibility for killing two guards working for the US embassy in Kathmandu.

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