Officials in Nepal are blaming Maoist rebels for a series of bomb blasts hours ahead of a nationwide strike called by the Maoists to protest King Gyanendra's seizure of power.

Police say the bombings late Friday in the western town of Nepalgunj left at least 20 people wounded - some seriously.

Maoist rebels, who have been fighting since 1996 to replace Nepal's monarchy with a communist government, called for an 11-day general strike beginning Saturday to protest the king's actions two months ago.

On February 1, King Gyanendra assumed absolute power in Nepal's constitutional monarchy, accusing the government of not doing enough to fight the rebels. He had a number of political leaders arrested.

The country's popular former prime minister, Girija Prasad Koirala, and 258 other detainees were freed Friday amid mounting global pressure on the king.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.