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At least 70 Guerillas Die During Clashes in Nepal - 2001-11-30


In Nepal at least 70 guerillas are reported to have been killed in fierce clashes between the army and Maoist rebels. The country's Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba is promising an early end to the crisis that was triggered by a wave of guerrilla attacks last week.

Media reports in Kathmandu and Home Ministry officials who did not want to be named said most of the rebels were killed in Salyan district, as they were setting up landmines. Other rebels were killed in Dang district. Both districts lie west of the capital Kathmandu, and are strongholds of the rebels.

State radio said an attempt by the rebels to storm a telecommunications tower in Syangja district was foiled.

There is no independent confirmation of the reports. The guerrillas have not commented on the army action against them. The military was deployed to fight the rebels after the government declared a national emergency earlier this week.

On Friday, the government won support for its tough action against the guerrillas from the main opposition Communist Party of Nepal, which said the Maoist activities had brought the nation to a critical situation. But the party said it did not favor the imposition of an emergency in the country, saying it has curbed the fundamental rights of citizens.

In a radio message to the nation Thursday Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba called on opposition parties to support the government efforts against the rebels. He described the rebels as terrorists trying to destroy the Nepalese nation, and said the current crisis will be over soon.

Defense Secretary Padam Kumar Acharya says the army is slowly closing in on the rebels.

But army officials also say they are preparing for a long haul against the Maoists, who are estimated to be between five and 10,000. Soldiers have to hunt them down in densely forested, steep mountains of Nepal, and the task could be long and difficult because it is easy to hide in these areas.

The Maoists have been fighting to establish a communist republic in Nepal since 1996. They broke off peace talks with the government last week and mounted a wave of attacks that prompted the government to declare the emergency and call in the army for the first time to stamp out the insurgency.

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