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Maoists kill 9 policemen

Kathmandu, April 5 (Reuters): Hundreds of Maoist rebels stormed a police post in eastern Nepal and killed at least nine police officers, officials said today.

Police said six policemen were injured and about 14 were still missing after the overnight attack in the village of Yadukuwa, about 300 km east of the capital Kathmandu.

Government officials said three soldiers were killed and seven others wounded today when the rebels ambushed an army patrol in Kavre, 40 km east of Kathmandu.

The latest attacks came ahead of a three-day general strike called by the Maoists who are fighting to set up a communist republic in place of a constitutional monarchy in the world’s only Hindu kingdom.

The Maoists have stepped up attacks on government installations and security posts after walking out of peace talks last August.

The number of rebel casualties was not known in the latest attacks — the Maoists usually carry away the bodies of their comrades after clashes.

Witnesses said more than 500 rebels bombed the police post and began firing automatic weapons at around 1515 GMT last night.

The fighting lasted two to three hours.

Details were still sketchy as the rebels have cut telephone and electricity lines to the village and also set up road blocks to stop reinforcements from coming.

“People are terrorised. All shops are closed,” said Brij Kumar Yadav, a reporter for a local Nepali daily, by telephone from the site.

He said unexploded crude bombs had been strewn on the streets of the village.

The latest raid came as protesters burned tyres and blocked traffic in Kathmandu, the fifth day of their protest to press King Gyanendra to fire the royalist cabinet and name an all-party government.

Yesterday, at least 200 people, including over a dozen political leaders were injured as police lathicharged, tear-gassed and fired rubber bullets at thousands of pro-democracy protestors who tried to break the security barricade while marching towards the royal palace.

The king has ignored the demand which political parties say is crucial to ending turmoil in a country battling a bloody Maoist revolt since 1996.

Two weeks ago, thousands of Maoist rebels overran a district capital in west Nepal in an attack in which at least 250 people, most of them rebels, were killed.

In a separate attack in the west of the country yesterday, rebels shot and injured three Indian traders bringing goods from Nepal’s southern neighbour and set their vehicles on fire.

On Saturday night, they also set fire to more than a dozen trucks waiting at a border post in western Nepal to pick up gasoline supplies from India.

India, which has supported the government drive against the guerrillas, condemned the attacks.

“Such incidents, far from deterring such cooperation, will only lead to redoubled efforts on the part of both countries to overcome the danger which such terrorism poses to the security of both our neighbouring countries,” said an Indian government statement.

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