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Nepal: More Violence on Day Six of Rebel Blockade of Capital - 2004-08-23

There is more violence in Nepal's capital, Kathmandu, on the sixth day of an economic blockade imposed by Maoist rebels on the city.

Police say suspected rebels fired several shots killing a local businessman in Kathmandu, and then fled. A bomb explosion on a highway leading to the capital was also blamed on the rebels. The city has witnessed sporadic violence since Maoist guerrillas imposed a blockade last Wednesday. They have threatened violence against anyone leaving or entering the city until the government meets their demands, which include the release of jailed rebels. Yuvraj Ghimre, editor of Nepal's weekly Samay magazine says the isolated attacks are aimed at spreading fear in the city.

"Wherever they are weak in number and strength and organization, they are creating much more terror," he said.

Traffic to and from Kathmandu was thin for the sixth day. Some vehicles, carrying crucial supplies, are reaching the city under military escort and with their license plates covered. The rebels have not erected physical roadblocks, but most people are too fearful to travel under threat of retaliation from the guerrillas. The government is coming under increasing pressure to negotiate with the rebels.

Opposition parties, ordinary people, human rights groups, and now businessmen are adding their voice to the calls for peace.

On Sunday thousands of businessmen and travel industry officials led an unprecedented march through Kathmandu, holding banners saying "Let Peace Prevail". The president of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Binod Bahadur Shrestha, says the rebels' blockade has hurt 12 industries.

"The government has to come immediately with [a] solution, otherwise it's affecting Nepalese economy very, very badly," he said. "Not only the economy, but tourism and other sectors will suffer."

The rebels are stepping up pressure on the government outside Kathmandu. On Sunday they stormed the remote Khalanga town, bombing and setting on fire several government buildings.

The eight-year old Maoist rebellion to turn Nepal into a communist republic has become more violent since peace talks broke down a year ago.