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Insurgency in Nepal

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.



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