Suspected Maoist rebels have attacked a small town in eastern Nepal, killing at least five policemen. Anjana Pasricha has a report on the situation in the tiny Himalayan country, where King Gyanendra assumed absolute power five-months ago, vowing to end the communist rebellion that has wracked the nation.

Nepalese officials say hundreds of rebels stormed Diktel town late Sunday, bombing or setting fire to several government buildings, and attacking a security base.

They also broke into a jail and freed dozens of inmates in the remote town, which lies about 200 kilometers east of Kathmandu.

Officials say two guerrillas were killed in the fighting.

It is the latest in a series of attacks mounted by the rebels in recent weeks. Lok Raj Baral, head of Kathmandu's Center for Contemporary Studies, says the rebels intended the attack as a show of strength.

"There was a statement from the side of the government that the Maoists are down, the army has been able to control them. But just to disprove that, now they are slightly on the offensive," he said.

The attack on Diktel came hours after Maoist leader Prachanda vowed not to target civilians in his group's violent campaign to overthrow the constitutional monarchy and establish a communist republic. Two-weeks ago, the rebels were blamed for a powerful landmine explosion that killed 38 and injured 71 passengers on a civilian bus.

The Maoist leader also offered to work with seven political parties who oppose the power grab by King Gyanendra.

The king ousted the prime minister and cabinet and took control of the administration in February, saying he acted because political parties were unable to tackle the nearly decade-long Maoist rebellion.

But political analysts such as Mr. Baral say five months on the king has not made progress toward exploring a settlement to the decade-long insurgency.

"The king has not taken any initiative except to resort to force, because the military solution is considered to be the only solution, and there are no other options being initiated from the side of the establishment," he said.

The rebels control vast sections of the mountainous countryside, making it difficult for the army to comb them out. Many political analysts call for talks with the rebels and a political solution to the insurgency, which has claimed nearly 12,000 lives.