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Maoist Rebels Break Ceasefire in Nepal - 2001-11-24

Authorities in Nepal say Maoist rebels have killed at least 32 policemen and soldiers, in a series of attacks on security posts and government installations. The attacks have broken a four-month ceasefire between the government and the rebels.

Government officials said Saturday the rebels attacked an army post and several police stations in western Nepal. At least eight soldiers were killed in the attack on the army post in Dang distrtict, about 400 kilometers west of the capital Kathmandu. It was the first time the Maoists staged an assault on the military.

The rebels also bombed a district jail, allowing all the prisoners to escape, and set off a bomb at an airstrip, destroying a helicopter.

The attacks by the guerrillas come after four months of peace in the mountain kingdom. The rebels and the government announced a ceasefire and began peace talks after a new government took power in July. But earlier this week, a senior Maoist leader said the ceasefire could not be justified. He accused the government of insincerity in its efforts to find a peaceful resolution to the insurgency that flared five years ago.

The rebels stepped up violent attacks in the past year, mainly targeting police posts in remote mountainous areas and killing or kidnapping hundreds of policemen. The Maoists want to replace the country's constitutional monarchy with a communist republic.

Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba had said he would give top priority to resolving the Maoist rebellion through a dialogue with the insurgents. Three rounds of peace talks have been held so far, but the talks apparently failed to make headway, because the rebels demanded a new constitution.

The government said it was ready to accommodate some rebel demands through amendments to the constitution, but said it would not abolish the constitutional monarchy established in 1990.

The Maoist rebellion began in 1996, in Nepal's remote areas, and has quickly picked up support, spreading from a handful of backward villages to a wide area of the country. More than 1,800 people have been killed in rebel attacks in the last five years.