Insurgency in Nepal
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 happened in Kathmandu everyday.
Over 11,000 people had been killed, most of them in the last three years. Since the end of the last cease-fire in August 2003, rebel action has greatly increased, including bombings, blockades, and multiple kidnappings in the Kathmandu Valley (the capital region). In the last three months of 2003, 450 people had been killed, the bloodiest quarter since the insurgency began.
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