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Maoists abduct 150 students in north Nepal

Kathmandu, Jan. 6 (AFP): Maoist rebels have kidnapped 150 students from schools in northwestern Nepal, local media reported today.

The abductions took place on Friday in Bajura district, 435 km from Kathmandu, the Nepali Mahanagar daily said.

“The Maoists selected healthy students from the fifth grade and higher from Jana Prakash higher secondary, Bhim middle school and others in Bhulina and Kalika of Bajura district,” the daily quoted the police as saying.

The daily said there have been no reports that the students have been returned home by the maoists, and district officials say they have no information on their whereabouts.

The rebels gave no motive for the kidnapping, nor did they hint at where the students were being taken. The rebels in December kidnapped 45 schoolboys in south western Nepal, but released them two days later.

Home ministry spokesman Gopendra Bahadur Pandey said there had been no information about any abductions.

Princely ceremony

Royal priests will lead Hindu rites in Nepal this week to mark the first rice-eating ceremony by the Himalayan kingdom’s newborn prince, second in line to the throne, a palace official said today. Prince Hridayendra, whose name means king of hearts, was born in July and Hindu tradition says babies must begin eating rice and solid food six months after birth.

The rice-feeding ceremony will be held on Thursday at the Narayanhity palace in central Kathmandu, where King Birendra and eight other royals were shot dead in 2001 by then crown prince Dipendra, who later killed himself.

“Various religious rites will be performed before rice is offered to the baby in accordance with Hindu traditions,” chief royal priest Ramesh Prasad Pandey said. The date and the time of the feeding were fixed by the palace priests after consulting Hindu texts.

US assistance

The US will provide military assistance worth $17 million to Nepal to help it battle a Maoist revolt, a US embassy official said today. “The US will give a total of $17 million from various sources for security and military assistance to Nepal,” embassy spokeswoman Constance Colding Jones said.

Washington has been a key supporter of Kathmandu's crackdown against the Maoist guerrillas, who are campaigning to set up a one-party communist republic in the Himalayan nation wedged between China and India.

Jones said the assistance would largely consist of training of soldiers, with emphasis on human rights.

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