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Suspected Maoists Kill Head of Nepal's Police Force - 2003-01-26

The head of Nepal's armed police force was shot and killed Sunday in the capital Kathmandu. Also killed in the attack were the police chief's wife and a bodyguard. Maoist rebels are believed behind the attack.

Krishna Mohan Shrestha, his wife, Nudup, and a bodyguard were gunned down as they were walking near their home early Sunday in a suburb of Kathmandu. Witnesses say a number of shots were fired and the assailants escaped.

The slain police chief was appointed to head Nepal's anti-rebel armed police force two years ago. The force gets special training and advanced weapons and they are deployed in areas where Maoist rebels are active.

Kapil Shrestha, a relative of the police chief, is a professor at Kathmandu's Tribhuvan University and President of the Human Rights Organization of Nepal. He said Krishna Mohan Shrestha was probably killed because he was regarded as one of the Maoists most effective opponents. "One of the possible reasons for targeting him could be because the paramilitary forces had been specially raised to fight against the Maoists," he said. "So by killing him, Maoists may have been trying to demoralize the paramilitary force."

The police chief is the most senior police official killed since the Maoist insurgency began seven years ago. The rebels have pledged to overthrow the country's government, abolish the monarchy and establish a people's republic.

Analysts say the shooting of the police chief could signal a new phase in the war, with Maoists starting a campaign of urban terrorism. More than 5,000 people, mostly Maoists, have died since the insurgency began.

Violence intensified after Nepal's King Gyanendra authorized a state of emergency in 2001. Both the government and the rebels say they want to begin peace talks, but so far there is no indication that talks will begin soon.