Communist rebels have raided a town in western Nepal, attacking several government installations. The renewed violence in the mountain kingdom following the end of a four-month uni-lateral truce called by the rebels.
Officials say the rebels attacked the police station in the town of Dhangadi while policemen were having dinner Wednesday. The rebels later opened fire on banks, offices, and an army base, but fled when soldiers returned fire.
Officials say they have regained control of the town, which lies about 600 kilometers west of the capital Kathmandu.
The attack on the heavily guarded town is the most daring since the rebels announced the end of a four-month unilateral cease-fire earlier this month.
The head of the Center for Contemporary Studies in Nepal, Lok Raj Baral, says the raid follows a warning by the rebels that they would extend their revolt beyond the countryside, where they already control vast stretches of land.
"The Maoists have openly stated they will concentrate on the urban areas, towns, and they will pay attention to the rural areas, but their target is the headquarters and urban centers," said Baral.
The Maoists have been fighting nearly a decade to end the monarchy and turn Nepal into a communist republic, but had offered to negotiate with the royalist government during the cease-fire. King Gyanendra, who seized control of the government a year ago, did not match the cease-fire, saying the rebels were insincere.
The government also said that security forces had the rebels on the run. Baral says the rebel attacks in recent days are meant to demonstrate that they remain a strong force.
"The government was telling that it had broken the back of the rebels, but in reply to that the Maoists have now attacked the district headquarters," he added.
Political parties are mounting pressure on King Gyanendra to restore democracy.
When the king ousted the previous government, he said he acted because political parties had failed to end the communist insurgency.
Political analysts say anti-monarchy demonstrations have been growing in size in recent days. Tens of thousands of people took part in a rally organized by an alliance of seven political parties in Janakpur in southeast Nepal.
Baral says opposition to the king is growing across the country.
"The government side tried to undermine the political parties, but now gradually people are gathering in large numbers. The Maoists have escalated the violence, the parties are on the move against the established order," he noted.
Members of political parties accuse government troops of harassing people heading to Janakpur by searching trucks and buses and tearing down posters and banners.
The political turmoil and violence in the country have raised worries in the international community. Several countries, including the United States, have urged the king to restore democracy.