| Prachanda: Pained
Kathmandu, June 7: Maoist rebels today apologised for yesterday’s landmine blast in Chitwan district that killed 38 people, mostly civilians.
In a statement, Maoist chairman Prachanda said the attack was against his party’s policy of not harming civilians. “My party has carried out introspection and self-criticism for this grave mistake”, he said. Prachanda clarified that the landmine was actually meant for an army convoy and the attack on civilians was a mistake.
The blast tore apart a bus in the southern Chitwan district yesterday. Women and children were among the dead and at least 70 people were wounded.
“We are seriously pained at the death of a large number of... supporters of the people’s war,” Prachanda said, adding the guerrillas were investigating if “infiltrators” were responsible.
The Maoist chief also said that his party had immediately suspended party members responsible for the attack and vowed that such incidents would not take place in the future.
Although many civilians have been killed in crossfire or targeted as informers, the rebels have not been known to aim for civilians. The army, however, blamed the Maoists.
In a separate development, 14 security personnel, one civilian and six Maoist rebels were killed in a fierce gunbattle between security troops and the insurgents at Masuriya jungle in the western district of Kailali today.
Yesterday’s blast hurled the bus several feet in the air, left a deep crater on the road and flung bodies and body parts around the site, by the side of a river.
The revolt has plunged the world’s only Hindu kingdom into turmoil, ravaged an economy dependent on aid and tourism, and forced tens of thousands to flee their homes.
Sandwiched strategically between India and China, Nepal has also been racked by years of political turmoil in which there have been several changes of government, the dissolution of parliament and a delay in elections due in 2002.
Last February, King Gyanendra sacked the government and took power, saying politicians had failed to bring peace or stability. But human rights groups say there has been no improvement.