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Maoist Rebels Suspected of Killing Nepalese Military Official - 2003-08-28

Maoist rebels in Nepal are suspected of having killed one senior military officer and seriously wounding another in separate attacks in the capital, Kathmandu. Wednesday, the rebels said they were ending a seven-month truce and breaking off peace talks with the government.

Authorities in Kathmandu say unidentified gunmen attacked the two officers at their homes. Both were rushed to a nearby hospital, where one later died from his wounds.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but authorities say they believe Maoist rebels were behind the shootings.

On Wednesday, the rebels announced they were ending a cease-fire agreed to with the government in January. A rebel statement said they were also breaking off all peace talks at this time.

The two sides had held three rounds of talks since January in an effort to find an end to a seven-year insurgency, but the negotiations ended last week in an impasse.

The main hurdle appears to be a rebel demand that the country's constitution be rewritten. The government has said it will not make concessions concerning the country's multiparty democracy or its constitutional monarchy.

The rebels turned down a government offer to establish an interim administration to include rebel representation. The rebels say their ultimate goal is to replace Nepal's monarchy with a communist government.

Following the rebels' announcement Wednesday, the government put security forces on high alert and urged the rebels to reconsider their decision to end the cease-fire and halt negotiations.

There are fears the collapse of the peace talks will bring renewed violence and instability to the mountain kingdom. More than 7,000 people have been killed since the Maoist insurgency began in 1996.