United People's Front
Peoples' War Group (PWG) Nepal
Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)
Nepal, a small South Asian nation of 23 million people, landlocked between the world's two most populated nations, India and China, is facing a guerilla war by Maoists rebels who want to abolish the monarchy and establish a communist system in this poor country. With eight of the world's 10 highest mountain peaks--including Mt. Everest at 8,848 m (29,000 ft.)--Nepal is a tourist destination for hikers and mountain climbers. Yet with a worsening internal security situation and a global economic slow-down, tourism declined 34% in FY 2002.
Landlocked between India and China with some of the most rugged topography on earth, Nepal was never colonized and remained totally isolated from outside influence until 1951. Since opening its doors, Nepal has made a remarkable transition from an isolated medieval kingdom without the most rudimentary infrastructure to a modern nation state.
In 1961, the present monarch's father, King Mahendra, overthrew Nepal's first-ever elected government and banned political parties. In 1990, Nepal made a dramatic political transition from a traditional Kingdom to a modern constitutional monarchy. Democracy was re-introduced after three decades of absolute monarchy. Many people in Nepal fear a return to political oppression. Nepal has been a monarchy for most of its history and largely isolated from the rest of world.
In 1990, the political parties pressed the king and the government for change. Leftist parties united under a common banner of the United Left Front and joined forces with the Nepali Congress Party to launch strikes and demonstrations in the major cities of Nepal. This "movement to restore democracy" was initially dealt with severely, with more than 50 persons killed by police gunfire and hundreds arrested. In April, the king capitulated. Consequently, he dissolved the Panchayat system, lifted the ban on political parties, and released all political prisoners. An interim government was sworn in on April 19, 1990, headed by Krishna Prasad Bhattarai as prime minister presiding over a cabinet made up of members of the Nepali Congress Party, the communist parties of Nepal, royal appointees, and independents. International observers characterized the May 1991 elections as free and fair in which the Nepali Congress won 110 seats out of 205 to form the government.
The transition to democracy produced an array of leftist political parties. The 1994 election defeat of the Nepali Congress Party by the UML made Nepal the world's first communist monarchy, with Man Mohan Adhikary prime minister. The 1994 elections resulted in a Nepali Congress defeat and a hung Parliament, with a minority government led by the United Marxist and Leninist Party (UML). One communist party faction was excluded from participation, and subsequently started a campaign of retribution against the ruling Nepal Congress Party. This communist party faction withdrew from the political process. Vowing a Maoist revolution modeled on Peru's Shining Path, it pledged to end parliamentary democracy and bring down the economic system. In mid-1994, the Parliament was dissolved due to dissension within the Nepali Congress Party. The subsequent general election, held November 15, 1994, gave no party a majority and led to several years of unstable coalition governments. The next 5 years saw five successive governments. Although the Nepali Congress won a clear majority (113 out of 205) in the latest parliamentary elections, held in 1999, the pattern of short-lived governments persists,
Nepal's military consists of an army of about 70,000 troops. The army is organized into three divisions--eastern, central, and western--with 15 infantry brigades, including the Royal Palace, Artillery, Engineer, Signal, Parachute, Logistics, Transportation, and Air Transportation. There are 47 independent companies, 37 battalions, 15 brigades, and 3 divisions in the Royal Nepalese Army. U.S. training assistance is provided via an annual International Military Education and Training program (IMET) grant. Nepal also purchases U.S. military equipment through Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programs. Other military hardware and training assistance is provided by India, China Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the United Kingdom.
The Communist Party of Nepal (CPN), is a Maoist group heavily modelled on Peru's Sendero Luminoso, better known as the Shining Path. The CPN's goals are to end the Nepalese monarchy and replace it with a Maoist people's republic, as well as an end to "Indian imperialism," capitalist exploitation, the caste system, and ethnic, religious, and linguistic exploitation. Thomas A. Marks describes their means as consisting of five elements: mass line (an alternative socialist society), united front (uniting with other anti-government groups who do not necessarily share the same goals as the CPN), military (armed action), political warfare (nonviolent methods such as legal political activity or negotiations in lieu of military action), and international action (finding alies and support in the international community). The CPN got the inspiration for its tactics from the afore mentioned Shining Path of Peru, as well as Indian Maoists known as "Naxalites." The common trait shared by these two groups is their penchant for brutality, taking Mao's call for the "elimination of class enemies" to its violent extreme. The irony that the CPN faces, a similar one shared with many other leftist groups, is that their leadership, Parchanda and Bhattarai, are both well educated Brahmins. The followers of the CPN however, are largely drawn from Nepal's lower classes. The CPN also draws heavy support from the Magartribe, as evidenced by the fact that there has Magar dominance of guerrilla units in areas where Magars are a considerable minority.
The CPN generally uses a combination of mass line and united front to gain local support but will use terror in areas where support comes more slowly. Such incidents have increased as the CPN has moved out of its traditional areas of support. In some areas, especially in the Mid-West where the CPN has firm control of the area and government control is considerably limited, the CPN acts as the defacto government. The CPN was originally centered in the border area of Rolpa and Rukkum districts in the Mid-West. Since the CPN lacks the drug income that has helped to finance FARC and the Shining Path, the CPN relies on bank-robbing, kidnapping-for-ransom, and extortion to get added funds, which have in fact not been able to allow for rapid expansion of the CPN. While nonviolent means were important in base areas, terror was widely used when expanding into disputed areas, ultimately culminating with the November 21 general offensive. Generally, the tactics used in taking over a village include incapacitating the village leader and leaving an absence of power that could only be filled by the CNP. The police, poorly armed and considerably spread-out, are generally powerless to do anything. Thomas A. Marks describes one interesting tactic used to deal with the local police force includes begining with a small attack to draw the attention of the local police forces and thus spread out their numbers. Once this has occurred, small guerrilla units attack the smaller, more isolated police forces, which in turn forces the police to consolidate their forces, ultimately leaving larger swaths of the local population at the mercy of the insurgents. Other tactics inluded cutting roads, bridges, or power to a region to isolate it and then begin the socialist process.
Most of these Maoists are young people from peasant families of dalits, low-caste Hindus, and make up twenty per cent of Nepal's population. Several leaders of these Nepalese Maoists come from lower middle class families. Many of them are educated and were influenced by leftist ideas while studying in India and other countries. Although the movement was initially inspired by the revolutionary notions of the late Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong, many analysts today say the rebels are building on popular discontent in the country.
Nepal's transformation has yet to reach many of its citizens in inaccessible mountain villages. Although its per capita income is $244, 42% of the population earns less than $100 per year. Poverty reduction is Nepal's overriding development challenge. Many of its social indicators are among the lowest worldwide. Nearly 40% of its population lack access to basic healthcare and education. Eighty percent of its citizens rely on subsistence agriculture, but only 20% of Nepal's rugged terrain is arable.
The growth of the Maoist movement in Nepal should be seen as a failure of mainstream politics to meet the needs and aspirations of the country's rural poor, including land reform. The rebels want re-distribution of land, with sixty percent of crops going to farmers and forty percent to landlords. The Maoists contend that the multi-party democracy, which was established in 1990, has failed to improve the living conditions of people in villages. They accuse corrupt politicians and rich landlords of oppressing and exploiting the low-caste poor.
It is basically a revolt of people out in the countryside who are beginning to realize that in an essentially feudal way of life, change is not only overdue but inevitable. In the rural areas controlled by the Maoists, rebels are getting some support because they are helping peasants retake their land from the powerful landlords. In many cases, these landowners have forced illiterate people to sign land-transfer documents for non-payment of long-standing debts.
Population pressure on natural resources is increasing. Over-population is already straining the "carrying capacity" of the middle hill areas, particularly the Kathmandu Valley, resulting in the depletion of forest cover for crops, fuel, and fodder and contributing to erosion and flooding.
Discrimination against lower castes is especially common in the rural areas in the western part of the country, even though the Government has outlawed the public shunning of "untouchables," and makes an effort to protect the rights of the disadvantaged castes. Economic, social and educational advancement tend to be a function of historical patterns, geographic location, and caste. Better education and higher levels of prosperity, especially in the Kathmandu Valley, slowly are reducing caste distinctions and increasing opportunities for lower socioeconomic groups. Better educated, urban-oriented castes (Brahmin, Chhetri, and certain elements of the Newar community traditionally dominant in the Kathmandu Valley) continue to dominate politics and senior administrative and military positions, and to control a disproportionate share of natural resources in their territories.
Children and adolescents have been the most impacted. A majority of the children involved in the Maoist-run organization were forced or lured to act as soldiers. Children have been used as human shields, as porters to carry the Maoist's dead comrades, as housekeepers and cooks, and as sex slaves. Overall, as a result of the conflict, many young children and pre-adolescents have been left alone, either abandoned by their families for their own safety or orphaned by killings. Often these children have found themselves totally isolated as community protection systems, both formal and informal, have broken down. The physical and psychosocial welfare of children in the conflict areas has declined. Nepal has an immediate need to address these issues related to children and youth as a result of the Maoist conflict.
1996 - People's War
The Maoist insurgency began in 1996 as a result of a political party being excluded from the political process and taking up arms. In 1996 the leaders of the United People's Front launched a "People's War" that has led to continued violence in more than 50 of the country's 75 districts. The insurrection has been waged through torture, killings, bombings, extortion, and intimidation against civilians and public officials. Police, armed personnel, insurgents and non-combatants continue to be killed in the increasingly violent "People's War." Rebel tactics include attacks on Nepalese Government facilities and commercial transport vehicles, indiscriminate bombings using improvised explosive devices, assassination attempts against Nepalese officials, and calls for localized or nationwide strikes ("bandhs").
Launched by leaders Pushpa Kamal Dahal (a.k.a. "Prachanda") and Baburam Bhattarai, the "People's War" is a self-declared Maoist insurgency. The rebel group loosely models itself on the teachings of China's late Communist Party leader, Mao Zedong. The rebels also get their inspiration from the Shining Path guerrilla movement that was active in Peru. It wants to abolish Nepal's constitutional monarchy and set up a communist state. The Peoples Liberation Army force consists of an estimated three-to-four thousand combatants.
Starting in a remote rural section and employing classic Marxist strategy, the Maoists gained increasing control over rural areas, eventually establishing Maoist governments in five of Nepal's 75 districts, and then expanded their operations over much of the rural countryside. Maoist-affiliated unions and student groups shut down schools, exhorted money under the guise of "taxation," and successfully called nationwide strikes.
The Maoists have forged cooperative links with extremist groups across South Asia. Limited government finances, weak border controls, and poor security infrastructure have made Nepal a convenient logistics and transit point for some outside militants and international terrorists. The country also possesses a number of relatively soft targets that make it a potentially attractive site for terrorist operations. Security remains weak at many public facilities, including the Kathmandu International Airport, but the United States and others are actively working with the Government to improve security.
The Government continued to commit human rights abuses in its efforts to combat the insurgency. Security forces estimate that they have killed at least 1,350 Maoists from 1996 to 2001. Since that time, the insurgency has intensified; roughly 5,000 of the total estimated 7,000 deaths occurred during 2002 aloner. By the end of 2003 by some estimates as many as 9,000 people had died because of the conflict. Local and international human rights groups also have documented Maoist violence in areas affected by the "People's War," including the severing of limbs. The Maoists most often have targeted political leaders, local elites, and suspected informers. These targets included not only members of the majority Nepali Congress Party (NCP), but also members of the opposition Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist/Leninist (CPN-UML).
The US government has also designated the guerrilla group, officially the Communist Party of Nepal, a terrorist organization. Washington provides millions of dollars in development and military assistance to the Nepali government to help fight the insurgency. Several countries have expressed their support for the Nepalese government's efforts to deal with the challenge to the democratic system. Nepal's neighbors, India and China, have offered their help in dealing with the Maoist insurgency. The United States and the European Union have urged the Nepalese government to ensure early negotiations with the Maoists with a view toward integrating them into the political process, thereby leading to the conditions for free and fair elections.
Since November 2001 Maoist insurgents have carried out attacks on Nepali security forces and government facilities in most parts of the country. Maoist cadres also have engaged in a variety of guerrilla and terrorist tactics that have victimized, and in many cases brutalized, civilians. The insurgents have detonated explosive devices both within and outside the Kathmandu Valley, causing numerous injuries and some fatalities.
Approximately 350 Maoists were killed by police during 2001 . Maoist insurgents often are drawn from members of the local population. Some of the deaths are believed to have been extrajudicial killings. In August the NHRC recommended disciplinary action against police officials responsible for ordering police to fire into a meeting of the Maoist-affiliated All Nepal Women's Association in Bharatpur in late 2000, killing one woman and injuring several others. The Commission also has recommended that the Government pay compensation of more than $1,300 (Rs. 100,000) to the family of the woman who was killed and lesser amounts to four of the injured. To date, no action has been taken against police who opened fire on a Maoist "cultural program" at a school in Accham District in 2000, killing nine persons, several of whom were bystanders. Since the event occurred before the establishment of the Human Rights Commission and the Home Ministry maintains that police acted in self-defense after being fired upon first, no action is likely. A Home Ministry official who investigated the killing of at least 18 Maoists during a "search operation" in Rukum in February 2000 stated that the Ministry has been unable to determine which police officers may have been guilty of using excessive force and consequently has taken no action. By year's end, no further action had been taken in the case of 20 to 30 police officers charged with abuses against the public in connection with police sweeps in 1998, and it appeared that no action would be taken.
Maoists were responsible for numerous abuses. Maoist rebels clashed with police repeatedly during 2001. Police fatalities totaled 206 by mid-September, more than double the number recorded in 2000. On January 23, three policemen were killed by a landmine at Daregauda, Gorkha. On April 1, Maoists attacked a police post in Rukumkot in Rukum District, in the northwest, killing 35 policemen and taking 16 persons prisoner. A similar attack occurred on April 5 in Dailekh, in which 31 policemen were killed. Another 30 policemen reportedly surrendered to their attackers, who then summarily executed 8 of the captives. On May 8, four policemen were killed in a Maoist ambush set near a police post in Chisopani, Syangja District. On June 29, Maoists shot and killed five policemen in Tanahu District. On July 6, the birthday of the country's new King Gyanendra and the country's new National Day, Maoists launched attacks on police posts in 3 separate locations, killing 21 policemen in Lamjung, 10 in Gulmi, and 10 in Nuwakot. On July 23, Maoists attacked 3 police posts in Bajura District, killing 15 officers. On November 21, Maoist leader Prachanda unilaterally called an end to the 4-month ceasefire with the Government. On the night of November 23, Maoist insurgents launched a series of surprise attacks on police, army, and other government facilities in a number of districts. In Dang District, Maoists overran an army barracks, killing the company commander and 11 other soldiers. Maoists attacks at two separate police posts killed nine policemen in Dang District as well. On the same day in Syangja District, Maoists attacked a police post, killing 14 policemen. The night of November 25, Maoists attacked army, police and government offices in Salieri, in Solukhumbu District, killing 27 policemen, 4 soldiers, and 2 civilian government officials, including the CDO. On November 26, Maoists ambushed an army convoy in Pyuthan District, killing two soldiers. On November 27, Maoists attacked a police post in a remote area of Darchula District, killing four policemen.
Although their activities are focused on the police, the Maoists continued to kill and injure civilians during 2001. For example, on January 1, Maoists shot and killed Nepali Congress supporter Ram Bharose Shah in Sarlahi District in the southeast. On January 19, Customs Inspector Sridhar Bhattarai was killed in a gunfight with Maoists in Jambu, Sindhupalchok. On February 3, Maoists ambushed the vehicle in which the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was riding in Surkhet District, in the midwest. Although the Chief Justice survived the attack, six others (including the judge's bodyguard, a local court official, and four policemen) were killed. On February 9, Maoist rebels beat Aspal Tamang to death in Sindhupalchok. On February 12, in Accham District two children were killed and eight others injured after playing with a bomb that was widely assumed to have been left by Maoists. On February 19, Maoists killed two relatives of a former government minister and injured six others in Kailali District. On February 27, Maoists shot and killed Tikaraj Aran, a Nepali Congress Convention member. Three policemen on their way to the scene the following day were injured by a landmine.
On 26 June 2001 , Maoists abducted and killed Shyam Sunder Yadav, Chairman of the Khajurgachi Village Development Committee in Jhapa. On July 17, two dozen Maoist militants hacked Nepali Congress party member Krishna Bahadur Kunwar to death in Pithuwa, Chitwan. On September 9, Baijinath Das Tharu was killed in a confrontation between purported Maoists and local villagers in Parsa District. On September 23, the press reported that Maoists shot and killed Communist Party of Nepal-Marxist/Leninist (CPN-UML) member Nimlal Rokka in Holeri, Rolpa.
On 25 November 2001, Maoists beat Netra Bahadur Shrestha, President of the Mandu Village Development Committee in Gorkha District, to death with a chisel. On December 3, suspected Maoist sympathizers left a bomb in a carpet showroom in Kathmandu. The bomb exploded, killing three persons. On December 5, Maoists killed 16-year-old Tara Lawa in Thumbika, Taplejung District. On December 6, Maoist insurgents killed two unarmed policemen at Dhumbas Police Post in Kaski District by shooting them in the mouths. On December 8, Maoists stabbed and shot to death shopkeeper Sitaram Rai in Nuwakot District. On December 9, Maoists stabbed Nepali Congress activist Megh Bahadur Baniya to death in Chinnebas, Syangja District. On December 15, two assailants claiming to be Maoists shot and killed Ramesh Manandhar, a plainclothes U.S. Embassy guard, on duty near the U.S. Agency for International Development in Kathmandu. On December 15, a group of 15-20 Maoists in Dailekh District beat to death Janak Thapa. On December 17, Maoists killed a primary school headmaster and a former President of the Village Development Committee in Gorkha District. On December 28, Maoists shot and killed a 23-year-old man in Tara Khola, Baglung District.
Rivalries within the royal family are to blame for many problems facing Nepal. On June 1, 2001, Crown Prince Dipendra reportedly shot and killed his father, King Birendra; his mother, Queen Aishwarya; his brother; his sister; his father's younger brother, Prince Dhirendra; and several aunts, before turning the gun on himself. After his death 2 days later, the late King's surviving brother Gyanendra was proclaimed king.It is believed that Crown Prince Dipendra killed his father and mother, the king and queen along with seven other members of the royal family before killing himself. The explanation was that the prince was drunk and outraged because of royal opposition to his choice of bride. But the vast majority of Nepalese did not believe the official story.
The Government and the Maoists declared a ceasefire on 23 July 2001 and held three rounds of talks in August, September and November. Following the third rounds of talks in November, on November 21, Maoist leader Prachandra issued a unilateral statement ending the ceasefire. On November 23, the Maoists broke the ceasefire with attacks on police, army, and Armed Police Force personnel in several districts. According to government figures, the insurgency has resulted in the deaths of an estimated 2,298 persons, including 508 policemen; 34 members of the army; 2 members of other security forces; 340 civilians; and 1,414 insurgents. These figures indicate that 274 police; 31 army; 84 civilians; and 423 insurgents were killed during the year.
Nepal's King Gyanendra approved the state of emergency in November 2001 . It allowed Nepal's army to join the fight against the Maoists for the first time in the six year insurgency.
The Nepalese government deployed the 54,000 strong Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) to reenforce the police forces. The RNA had previously been a largely ceremonial force that had mostly been used for UN peacekeeping missions and was hardly equiped to deal with a guerrilla insurgency like the one that they were about to face and as a result, they suffered heavy losses. The main task of the RNA was to replace the government's presence in areas where it had been weakened. This included building roads, did wells, and provide medical relief, but the scale of the projects were such that it did not make a considerable influence on the situation. Eventually the RNA was given primacy over a centralized force to deal with the insurgency, increasing and centralizing Nepal's previously weak command and control structures. However, a lack of trust began to harm this new structure, with the RNA viewing the police as corrupt and inefficient, and the police viewing the RNA as loyal only to the monarchy.
In February 2002 Maoist rebels in Nepal stepped up their attacks. Over the course of one week, the Maoists killed about 170 police and army troops, and shut down the country when they called a two-day strike. The violence was a sign the long-simmering conflict between Maoists and Nepal's government was becoming a full-fledged war that could take years to resolve. The violence and the strike came just as Nepal's Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba got parliamentary approval to extend a state of emergency for at least another three months.
Until late 2002, the Nepalese government and the Maoists were making some progress in talks. Three demands were put forward by the Maoists; the monarchy must be abolished; there must be an election for a constituent assembly which should write a new constitution; and, in order to have these elections, the present government must resign and an all-party interim government should administer the elections. The government rejected these demands and insisted the Maoists must first renounce violence. The Maoists accused the government of not being serious about the talks, broke the ceasefire and resumed their attacks.
On 04 October 2002, Nepal's King Gyanendra dismissed the country's elected government saying it failed to deal with the Maoist rebellion and put off general elections that were scheduled for November.
On January 29, 2003, the Government of Nepal (GON) announced a cease-fire with armed insurgents of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). The cease-fire resulted in a cessation of armed hostilities between the Maoist insurgents and GON security forces, but reports of Maoist extortion persist, and the insurgents have not disarmed. Terrorist bombings, kidnappings, and assassinations by the Maoists have been suspended since the cease-fire announcement.
The cease-fire was called after government officials agreed to meet three conditions: not to refer to Maoists as terrorists, remove rewards for their arrest, and withdraw INTERPOL arrest warrants for their leaders. While they say they will temporarily lay down their arms, the Maoists have given no indication they will compromise on their key demands for an abolition of Nepal's monarchy and a new constitution. In January 2003 a Maoist assassination squad killed the head of a special paramilitary police force, his wife, and a bodyguard, leading analysts to speculate that rebels were beginning a campaign of urban terrorism.
On 30 April 2003, the US put the CPN (Maoist) / United People's Front on its list of terrorist organizations. In 2002, Maoists claimed responsibility for assassinating two US Embassy guards. In a press statement, they threatened foreign missions, including the US Embassy, to discourage foreign governments from supporting the Government of Nepal. Maoists, targeting US symbols, also bombed locally operated Coca-Cola bottling plants in November 2001 and in January and April 2002. In May, Maoists destroyed a Pepsi Cola truck and its contents.
Peace talks between the Chand government and the Maoists were held in April and May 2003. In June 2003, as a result of political party demonstrations, Prime Minister Chand resigned, and the King appointed Surya Bahadur Thapa as Prime Minister. The ceasefire collapsed in August 2003, and since then the rebels have targeted US-affiliated interests with threats and extortion, and have physically attacked businesses identified with the United States. Since the resumption of hostilities, Maoist statements and leaflets carried anti-American slogans. Rebel leadership continued to issue anti-American rhetoric against U.S.-sponsored or supported humanitarian organizations.
A "bandh" (forced shutdown) is a longstanding form of political expression in Nepal and has been used frequently by the Maoists. Bandhs are enforced through intimidation and violence, with past bandhs resulting in the shutdown of businesses, schools, offices and vehicular traffic. Both within and outside the Kathmandu Valley the rebels have established a pattern of bombings, targeted assassinations (usually of security personnel), and other acts of intimidation prior to scheduled bandhs. In the lead-up to past bandhs, Maoists have attacked public buses, Nepalese Government vehicles, schools and private businesses with firebombs and explosive devices in an effort to terrorize the population into observing the strike. They have attacked civilian vehicles as well. In anticipation of a bandh planned for September 2003, for example, rebels detonated nearly a dozen small bombs in the heart of Kathmandu, injuring seven and killing a student.
Maoists have attacked the offices of several non-governmental organizations (NGO's), their local partners, and multinational businesses working in Nepal. NGO workers report widespread harassment and extortion by rebels. Some workers have left their projects in rural areas because of concerns about possible rebel violence and in response to Maoist threats. A statement by the Maoists on October 21, 2003, threatened attacks against or disrupt of international non-governmental organizations and non-governmental organizations funded or run by "American imperialism."
On October 31, 2003, the Department of State designated the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) as a terrorist organization under Executive Order 13224. This designation blocks the Maoists' assets in the U.S. or held by U.S. citizens wherever located, and bars most transactions with the Maoists, including but not limited to the making or receiving of any contribution of funds, goods, or services to or for the benefit of those persons designated under the Executive Order.
In December 2003 the US State Department issued a travel warning advising Americans to avoid travel to Nepal because of possible attacks by Maoist rebels. The advisory warns against Americans traveling to Nepal, and calls on Americans already there to maintain a low profile, for fear they could be targeted by Maoist rebels. The tiny Himalayan nation of Nepal attracts hundreds of thousands of people every year for white-water rafting, trekking through the many mountain passes or attempting to scale some of the world's highest peaks, making the economy heavily reliant on tourism. The US travel warning says the rebels are now also targeting tourists in general for extortion. However, some of that may be the work of common criminals, and not the rebels. There are also people who use the Maoist card to get money. This happens in Kathmandu everyday.
In most areas outside the Kathmandu Valley, the situation is tense and uncertain. Of Nepal's 75 Districts, all but one have suffered violence and/or armed conflicts relating to the Maoist insurgency. Rebel armed attacks, landmine explosions and vehicle burnings occur sporadically on main highways, including the roads linking Kathmandu with the Tibetan and Indian borders and with the tourist destinations of Pokhara, Annapurna Conservation Area, and Chitwan National Park.
In November 2001 the Royal Nepal Government: Integrated Security and Development Programme (ISDP) Maoist hotbed districts (ISDP list) were Dailekh, Dang, Dolakha, Gorkha, Jajarkot, Kalikot, Lamjung, Pyuthan, Ramechhap, Salyan, Surkhet, Rolpa and Rukum. By late 2002 Maoists held about a quarter of the country and were increasing their control of rural areas. While the GON controls all 75 district centers, the Maoists basically control seven of Nepal's 75 districts. In these districts, they have declared people's governments, established people's courts, and control basic health and education services. Maoists have a significant presence in 17 additional districts and have carried out violent activities in 74 out of 75 districts. Their initial pro-people approach, which won the Maoists converts among the disenfranished of Nepal, has transformed into a campaign of violence, lawlessness, intimidation, and destruction.
In August, Maoist rebels bombed a luxury hotel in Kathmandu. While no one was injured, it intended to scare foreign investors and companies away from doing business in Nepal. Soon after, the rebels began a blockade of Kathmandu and told the government that the blockade would be lifted if the government released imprissioned rebels and gave compensation for rebels that had been killed in the conflict. Three days after the blockade began, the rebels planted bombs at a police checkpoint and tax collection center, and was again followed by attacks in the city, largely against the police forces. About one week later, the rebels called off the blockade, citing concerns voiced by human rights groups. The blockade severely hurt Kathmandu's economic health, as it was almost totally cut off from outside support for a week. Food prices had risen dramatically and some gas stations had run out of gas. The blockade was widely seen to be an attempt by the rebels to show that their influence extended beyond rural regions and into the capital.
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