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Clashes Between Maoist Rebels, Nepalese Army Leave Hundreds Dead - 2003-10-01


In Nepal, authorities say more than 300 Maoist rebels and 70 security personnel have been killed since the end of a cease-fire five weeks ago.

Military spokesman Deepka Gurung says hundreds of rebels have been killed in clashes with the army since the end of August, when a seven-month truce between the government and Maoist guerrillas collapsed.

He says scores of army and police personnel also have been killed or wounded in fighting that usually takes place in remote, rural areas where Maoists have their strongholds.

Authorities reported at least three clashes this week involving attacks by rebels on police posts and checkpoints, but independent verification of fighting and casualty tolls is difficult.

But the guerrillas are promising a temporary truce for nine days starting Thursday, when the country celebrates its main Hindu festival, Dashain, a centuries-old celebration of the victory of good over evil.

But the rebels are warning the attacks could resume if government security forces re-start their violence. The government is welcoming the truce, but says it will not reciprocate.

The rebels have been fighting since 1996 to replace Nepal's constitutional monarchy with a communist republic. Two attempts at negotiating an end to the conflict have failed. The latest breakdown of peace talks happened in August when the rebels called off the cease-fire after the government rejected their demand to rewrite the country's constitution.

The government says it will not make any concessions on the country's multi-party democracy or its constitutional monarchy.

Nepalese newspapers report that the government is planning to increase military spending by millions of dollars to cope with the rebellion. Much of the money will go to helicopters and arms.

More than 7,000 people have been killed since the armed struggle erupted eight years ago. The conflict has left the country's economy in shambles and raised fears about the future of its fragile democracy. Nepal is among the world's poorest countries.

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