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Nepalese Maoist Rebels Threaten More Attacks

16 January 2006

Nepal's Maoist rebels Monday warned of more attacks in cities in the run-up to municipal elections in early February. At least 12 people were killed in recent days in attacks around the capital Kathmandu.

Rebel leaders have warned the people of Nepal to be ready for a "storm of agitation" as they prepare for a series of strikes aimed at disrupting next month's elections. In a statement on the rebel webpage, the Maoist group says it will be carrying out these new attacks in the cities, not the countryside.

The threat comes as Nepal approaches the first year anniversary of King Gyanendra's seizure of power. On February 1, the king dismissed parliament, arrested scores of political leaders, censored the media, and imposed many restrictions on civil liberties - which are still in place today.

The king said he was forced to act because political parties had failed to end the country's nine year communist insurgency. The rebels call themselves Maoists since they draw their inspiration from the late Chinese leader Mao Zedong.

Nepal's once-squabbling political parties are now also united, joining the Maoists in their threat to disrupt these elections.

"It's not only the Maoist threat that will not let it happen. It's also all the political parties, which are going to obstruct," explained Sukh Deo Muni, a professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. "They have already claimed that the seven party alliance will not allow these elections take place, because the purpose of these elections is to get legitimacy for the king's actions."

More than 12,000 people have died since the Maoists launched their insurgency in 1996, in a bid to overthrow Nepal's monarchy. Human rights activists say many of the dead are ordinary Nepalese, who are often falsely accused by one side for working for the other.

Already there are signs the rebels are making good on their threat to move the conflict from their traditional rural grounds into the cities. In recent days, the rebels have attacked several targets around the capital Kathmandu, killing at least 12 people.

Mr. Muni says that as a guerrilla army, the rebels lack the capacity to take and hold territory, such as the capital. But still, they can undermine the people's confidence in the king's ability to keep order.

"They have more of a negative capacity to disturb the security structure of the capital. They may still not be able to take it," he said. "There cannot be an open conventional war, there would certainly be bomb blasts and killings and this and that."

King Gyanendra says the February elections for the municipal councils are a step toward restoring democracy in Nepal. Parliamentary elections, he says, will follow next year.

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