| A policewoman kicks a political activist during the day-time curfew in Kathmandu on Sunday. (AFP)
Kathmandu, April 9 (Reuters): Violent protests against the king spread across Nepal today as a third person was shot dead by troops and thousands of activists defied a curfew to burn government vehicles and clash with police.
Nepal’s seven main political parties, who began a four-day nationwide general strike and protests on Thursday, said they were extending the campaign indefinitely to pile pressure on King Gyanendra to end his absolute rule and restore democracy.
Maoist rebels, fighting since 1996 to topple the monarchy, said the campaign so far by the parties was a success and vowed to back the extension as part of a loose alliance between them.
Today’s protests came despite stringent security across the mountainous nation. One protester was killed today when police opened fire in Banepa, about 30 km east of Kathmandu, when demonstrators tried to storm a police post, a home ministry official said. It was the third death from firing by troops since yesterday.
A woman bystander, wounded in police firing yesterday in a town south of Kathmandu, died today. Another protester was also shot dead yesterday in the tourist resort town of Pokhara.
Nepal’s seven main political parties, who had called the nationwide strike and protests that shut down the country said they were extending the campaign indefinitely. “Our protest movement is reaching new heights. We will intensify it further,” said Gyanendra Bahadur Karki, a top leader of the Nepali Congress (Democratic) party.
The move was expected to cause the government to extend the curfew in Kathmandu and many other towns and keep mobile phone services suspended, sources said.
The royalist government warned of tough measures to curb the demonstrations.
“So far, we have been restrained even during the curfew. We will get stricter now to preserve law and order and keep the situation normal,” home minister Kamal Thapa told a news conference.
Maoist rebels are for the first time supporting the political parties and have declared a ceasefire in and around Kathmandu. But they have not joined the protests.
The insurgents would launch a parallel campaign against the king as part of which they would destroy statues of royalty in Nepal and signboards with the words “His Majesty’s Government”, Maoist chief Prachanda said.
The seven political parties had planned a big rally against the king in Kathmandu yesterday but tough security meant that only a handful of small protests could be held.
But hundreds of protesters defied the curfew and demonstrated at several places on the outskirts of the capital, burning tyres on roads, blocking them with rocks and logs, and pelting riot police with stones and bricks.
Large demonstrations involving thousands of people were also staged in many towns across the country.