Kathmandu, Oct. 20 (Reuters): Two Britons on a recruiting drive for Gurkha soldiers for the British army in a remote village were among five people feared kidnapped by Nepali rebels, officials said today.
Prem Narayan Sharma, district administrator of Baglung, around 300 km west of the capital, said the five were taken last night from Lekhani village, located in a stronghold of Maoist insurgents.
The five people, including two British nationals, have been kidnapped by suspected Maoists, he said. A police and army rescue team will be sent from the district headquarters early tomorrow. Sharma said he felt there was no danger to the lives of the five people and hoped the kidnappers would release them tomorrow.
Peter Bullock, the assistant military attache at the British embassy in Kathmandu confirmed the incident but could not say how many Britons were among those taken.
A small group of about five people have been out of contact since last night, he said. We understand a group claiming to be Maoists approached them yesterday and asked them to come and discuss recruitment issues with their commanders.
The Maoists have been fighting since 1996 to set up a communist republic in the impoverished nation.
Around 3,400 Gurkhas feared Nepali fighters who have served with British armed forces for the past 200 years currently serve in British military ranks. The British army recruits about 230 Gurkhas from Nepal every year. The Maoists have been opposed to the recruitment of Gurkhas by the British and the Indian armies.
The rebels, who draw their inspiration from Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, have not kidnapped foreigners in the past but they have extorted money or stolen from foreign tourists visiting the scenic Himalayan kingdom.