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Nepal Vows Response to Deadly Rebel Attack - 2002-02-18

Authorities in Nepal are vowing to strike back at Maoist guerrillas who killed at least 130 people in two attacks Saturday and Sunday.

At least 48 army soldiers and 76 police officers, as well as several civilians, were killed when rebels attacked a district headquarters about 600 kilometers west of Kathmandu. Another 27 police officers died when the rebels attacked a nearby airfield. At least 50 rebels are believed to have been killed in the attacks, the deadliest in Nepal's six-year Maoist insurgency.

Nepalese army and police reinforcements are scouring the area of the district headquarters town of Mangalsen, searching for Maoist rebels who carried out the two attacks in the area.

The attacks have shocked Nepal and generated political controversy.

Scuffles broke out in Nepal's parliament Monday, when opposition lawmakers called on Nepal's prime minister, Sher Bhadur Deuba, to resign, saying his government should have prevented the attacks.

Lawmakers were debating a proposal to extend a state of emergency by three months. Observers say that, following the attacks, Nepal's prime minister is likely to get the two-thirds majority he needs in Parliament to extend the emergency.

Nepal's King Gyanendra declared the state of emergency last November, and ordered Nepal's army to join the fight against an estimated 3,000-4,000 Maoist rebels. They have been fighting for six years to abolish Nepal's constitutional monarchy, and create a communist people's republic.

More than 2,000 people have died in the conflict. The rebels get their inspiration from China's late revolutionary leader, Mao Tse-tung, and from the Shining Path guerrilla movement that was active in Peru a decade ago.

Since the state of emergency was declared, government authorities have said they were making headway against the rebels, claiming to have killed about 500 and captured more than 1,000.

But the latest attacks show the rebels are still capable of inflicting heavy casualties on government forces. The rebels have called a general strike for Friday and Saturday to mark the sixth anniversary of the beginning of their armed struggle.