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Maoist Rebels Killed in Nepal Government Offensive


Officials in Nepal say about 60 Maoist rebels have been killed in the latest government offensive. The rebels are fighting to topple the mountain kingdom's constitutional monarchy, and establish a communist republic. Nepal's junior interior minister, Devendra Raj Kandel, says the rebels were killed in fierce overnight clashes in remote mountain districts of Western Nepal. More than 25 rebels died in a battle in Rolpa district, 300 kilometers west of the capital, Kathmandu.

Officials say another gun battle erupted further to the west when rebels attacked troops patrolling a village in Doti district. They say more than 30 rebels were killed. Independent confirmation of casualty figures is difficult to obtain in the remote region. But the government says scores of rebels have died in a military offensive launched last week after a five-day strike called by the guerrillas failed to get much public response.

The latest killings were reported a day after the guerrillas offered to resume peace talks with the government to end their six-year rebellion. In a statement, the rebels said they were responding to calls by key political parties and the intellectual community for a dialogue to reach a political solution.

Six-months ago, rebels walked out of peace talks with the government and launched a series of deadly attacks on security posts. The violence prompted the government to declare a state of emergency, and call in the army to crush the rebellion.

The government has not responded to the latest offer for talks by the guerrillas. In the past it has said it does not rule out a dialogue, but will not hold talks until the rebels surrender.

The rebel offer was made just days before a scheduled visit by Nepalese prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba to the United States, which has expressed support for the government's efforts to crush the insurgency.

More than 37,000 people have been reported killed since 1996 in violence related to the rebellion. The conflict has also taken a heavy toll on the country's economy, and poses a threat to the stability of its multi-party democracy. Nepal is one of the world's poorest countries.

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