Kathmandu, Jan. 28 (Reuters): Nepal’s most daring killing in six years of a Maoist revolt signals the rebels are switching to a high-profile, low-risk strategy to spread fear and strengthen their hand ahead of possible peace talks, analysts say.
A hit squad gunned down the head of the crack anti-rebel police wing on the streets of Kathmandu on Sunday in what appears to have been a departure from the Maoists’ usual strategy of human wave attacks on isolated army and police outposts.
Analysts and officials say there is no question the Maoists were behind the assassination, although the rebels have not claimed responsibility.
“They want to bring the fight to the capital,” Kunda Dixit, editor of the widely read Nepali Times weekly, said.
“They feel killing 50 policemen in a remote area doesn’t attract enough attention. They are going to be doing more of this. It’s a programme of intimidation against the government.”
Krishna Mohan Shrestha, inspector-general of the Nepal Armed Police Force, was the most senior official slain in a rebellion that has killed more than 7,200, and analysts expect more attacks. High-profile political assassinations give the rebels maximum impact and boost morale, risk only a handful of guerrillas and are easier to prepare than major assaults on military posts — which authorities are also becoming better at guarding.
Although the capital has been largely spared the violence gripping the countryside and crippling the economy, rebel attacks in Kathmandu are not unusual. Last year, the Maoists killed two Nepali US embassy security guards. Most strikes in the city normally involve small, home-made bombs causing minimal damage and casualties.
The Maoist revolt, human rights abuses by both sides and political chaos in Kathmandu have wrecked the tourism and aid-reliant economy of one of the world’s 10 poorest countries.
Besides the insurgency, the Himalayan nation has been rattled by the massacre of King Birendra and eight other royals by the crown prince in 2001 and the suspension of Nepal’s fragile 12-year-old democracy.
Thirty six students were abducted from a school allegedly for recruitment in rebel forces.
The Maoists abducted 36 students from a school in Gulmi district. They forced the Class 8 students to come with them, saying it was a sacrifice for the country, a local daily reported.