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Maoist Rebels Die During Failed Attack in Nepal - 2002-05-28

Government officials in Nepal say scores of Maoist rebels have been killed during a failed attack on an army base in the western part of the country. The fighting comes as political turmoil is gripping the capital Kathmandu.

Nepal's deputy home minister says there were intense fighting and heavy guerrilla casualties in Monday night's battle, which took place at an army camp near Khara in Nepal's Rukum District, more than 300 kilometers southwest of Kathmandu.

The fighting took place just hours after Nepal's King Gyanendra re-imposed emergency rule for a three-month period, to fight the Maoist insurgency.

The move to extend emergency rule has split the ruling Nepali Congress Party. Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, who supported the extension of emergency rule, was expelled from the party in a revolt led by former Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala who opposed the measure.

Defying his party, Mr. Deuba Sunday dissolved parliament and set new elections for November. Even though he no long heads the ruling party, Mr. Deuba is expected to stay on as prime minister, but he will not be able to campaign as a candidate for the Nepali Congress Party. Emergency rule was first authorized last November, after the rebels walked out of peace talks and resumed their struggle to overthrow the world's only Hindu kingdom and establish a people's republic. Under the emergency, security forces have been given enhanced powers to detain and restrict the movements of Nepali citizens they consider to be Maoist supporters.

Since last June's royal massacre, when a deranged Crown Prince Dipendra gunned down his father King Birendra and nine other members of his family, Nepal has lurched from crisis to crisis.

More than 4,000 people have died in the insurgency, half of them in the last six months. Nepal's fragile economy, heavily dependent on tourism, has sunk to new lows.