Kathmandu, Nov 15: Maoist rebels struck last night in two places leaving 56 security personnel, including four soldiers, dead. According to Reuters, 95 people were killed.
The attacks took place in Khalanga, a district centre in the remote district of Karnali in northwestern Nepal, and a police outpost in Gorkha district, west of Kathmandu.
Thirty-three policemen and four soldiers lost their lives in Khalanga. Among the others who were killed are the chief district officer, the seniormost civil servant of the district, and two civilians. The police believe that the Maoists too have suffered heavy casualties although only 21 bodies have been found so far.
In Khalanga, the authorities also recovered four SLRs and seven .303 rifles — weapons that had been seized by the rebels from the army and the police respectively. The Maoists also looted the local bank in Khalanga and took away Rs 1.9 million in cash and jewellery worth Rs 1.7 million.
All the government buildings there were torched and the attack has totally destroyed Khalanga airport. The smoke from the burning buildings is said to have made it difficult for rescue helicopters to land.The army post at Khalanga has survived the onslaught and now has the situation under control. Massive search operations have been launched in both places.
In Gorkha, 23 of the 59 policemen manning the police station at Takukot were killed. This was the first major attack in the district since the state of emergency was imposed one year ago. It is also the district where army operations were said to have led to total disarray among rebel forces.
The attacks came a day after the three-day countrywide bandh called by the Maoists, adds Reuters. On the last day of the bandh the Maoist leadership had reiterated their key demands: a round-table conference of all political forces, which they should include the king, an interim government, and an election to a constituent assembly. They had warned of serious consequences if there was no favourable response to their demands.
“Villagers say terrorists had carried away many bodies of their colleagues while fleeing,” the defence ministry said.
“The rebels might have suffered more casualties as the search for bodies is continuing in neighbouring areas,” another official said. There was no comment from the rebel group.
The assaults followed a national strike called by the rebels earlier this week who are battling to topple the monarchy and set up a Communist republic in the impoverished Himalayan kingdom.
Rural airport bombed
Officials said the rebels also bombed a rural airport tower at Khalanga and set fire to buildings housing government offices. “Many buildings were smouldering when a rescue team of soldiers reached,” an official said. The rebels, inspired by the revolutionary ideas of the late Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong, have a strong presence in Khalanga and Gorkha.
Top Maoist leaders earlier this week repeated a demand for the formation of a new constituent assembly to draft a fresh constitution that would abolish the monarchy as a condition for ending their six-year-old revolt.
They vowed to continue their battle if authorities refused. More than 7,100 people have died in the revolt.
The rebels ordered this week's three-day strike to protest against King Gyanendra's sacking of the elected government in Nepal in a row over the timing of elections, branding it a “regressive” step.