Kathmandu, Sept. 17 (Reuters): At least 35 Maoist rebels were killed and dozens wounded today after troops stormed a guerrilla hideout in Nepal, the biggest outbreak of fighting since the end of a truce last month, officials said.
They said four government soldiers also died in the attack on the rebel bastion in Kuinkot in Rolpa district, 400 km west of Kathmandu.
The assault came a day ahead of the start of a three-day general strike called by the Maoists in support of demands for a new constitution to decide the future of the monarchy.
“Soldiers penetrated the hideout and the rebels were killed in the gunbattle that followed,” a senior security official said.
He did not say how long the fighting lasted but said it had stopped and troops had taken control of the hideout, located in a rebel hotbed in Nepal’s remote Himalayan foothills.
There was no immediate comment from the rebels, who have in the past reported fewer casualties and have accused the government of exaggerating rebel deaths.
Kathmandu has stepped up security across the country ahead of the strike, imposing a night-time curfew in the capital and banning motorcycle riders from carrying passengers.
The rebels, who walked out of peace talks and resumed fighting the government last month, have called for a strike starting on Thursday.
The Maoists, fighting since 1996 to replace Nepal's constitutional monarchy with a communist republic, have asked businesses, schools and transport services across the impoverished nation to shut down during the strike.
Such rebel calls in the past have generally been heeded out of fear.
Authorities said the week-long ban on motorcycles carrying passengers was aimed at preventing the guerrillas from escaping after launching attacks.
More than 7,300 people have died so far in the seven-year insurgency.
The Maoist revolt has hurt Nepal's aid and tourism dependent economy and damaged infrastructure in one of the world's poorest countries.