SLUG: 2-296492 Nepal (S-L Update)
TITLE=NEPAL (S/L Update)
/// EDS: UPDATES intro of 2-296474 with new casualty reports; minor editing throughout ///
INTRO: Authorities in Nepal say more than 100 people have been killed in fierce fighting between Maoist rebels and police and army personnel in two separate rebel attacks. Officials say police, soldiers and rebels are among the dead. V-O-As Jim Teeple reports from our South Asia Bureau in New Delhi, the attacks come on the heels of a nationwide, three-day strike called by the Maoists.
TEXT: Maoist rebels overran a police post in Gorkha district, about 150 kilometers northwest of Kathmandu, and attacked Jumla town about 600 kilometers west of the capital.
Authorities say the assaults began late Thursday and fighting continued on Friday. Hundreds, and perhaps thousands of rebels were involved in the assaults, in some of the heaviest fighting seen in recent weeks.
Heavy casualties are reported on both sides.
The fighting took place just hours after Maoist leader Prachanda made a surprise offer to negotiate with the government. The offer came at the conclusion of a three-day nationwide strike called by the Maoists that
largely shut down the country.
Government officials say they have been working on a plan to establish contact with the Maoists who want to abolish Nepal's constitutional monarchy and establish a communist state.
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Political violence and uncertainty in Nepal has grown worse since Nepal's King Gyanendra dismissed the government of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, and appointed Lok Bahadur Chand, a staunch monarchist
as the country's new prime minister.
King Gyanendra defended his action, saying Prime Minister Deuba was incompetent, but there were widespread protests from political parties in parliament who called the king's move unconstitutional.
Prime Minister Chand has vowed to resume peace talks with the Maoists, and bring an end to Nepal's six year-old civil war. But since he took office last month, there have been several major bombings in Kathmandu and scattered Maoist attacks across the country. More than seven-thousand people, mostly Maoists, have been killed in the fighting. More than half of those killed have died since King Gyanendra declared a state of emergency last year. (Signed)
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