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Nepal Rebel Attack Is Worst in Months - 2002-02-17

Maoist rebels in Nepal have killed at least 100 people, mostly policemen and soldiers, in a wave of attacks on government installations. The attacks are being described as the worst assault by the rebels since they abandoned peace talks with the government last year.

Officials say the Maoist rebels launched coordinated raids on a rural airport, a government office, and a police post in Accham district, about 600 kilometers west of the capital Kathmandu.

It is a remote region, making it difficult to get accurate information. But the attack on the district headquarters appears to have been the most deadly.

The rebels are reported to have killed the top district administrator and his wife along with several security personnel. Officials say the rebels controlled the headquarters until early Sunday, when paratroopers landed in the area. The headquarters is situated in Mangelsen, a small town that has no roads.

Officials say communication links to the region have broken down. Troops have been sent to reinforce security, but bad weather and the mountainous terrain are slowing operations.

The Maoists have been fighting to establish a communist republic since 1996. In November last year, the government declared a state of emergency, and deployed the army to crush the rebellion after the rebels broke off peace talks with the government.

About 600 people, mostly rebels, have been killed since the emergency was declared, and official reports have suggested that the army was gaining the upper hand.

But the latest attacks are seen as a big challenge to the government, which plans to ask parliament Monday for a three-month extension of the emergency.

The Maoists have called for a nationwide strike on February 22-23 to mark the sixth anniversary of their uprising. The rebellion is seen as a threat to democracy in Nepal, which is one of the world's poorest countries.