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Nepal Troops Kill 90 Maoist Rebels

Nepal Troops Kill 90 Maoist Rebels
Nepal Troops Kill 90 Maoist Rebels
Fri May 3,11:20 AM ET

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) - Security forces killed at least 90 Maoist guerrillas in western Nepal overnight, the government said Friday, days before the prime minister visits Washington to seek help in fighting the rebels.

The fighting represented one of the largest death tolls since King Gyanendra imposed a state of emergency Nov. 26 and ordered the army to clamp down on the rebels after they withdrew from peace talks and attacked government troops and offices.

The rebels, who operate in more than half of this mountainous Himalayan kingdom of exquisite beauty and violent politics, want an end to the constitutional monarchy and sweeping reforms in land ownership. Their insurgency, inspired by Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong, has claimed more than 3,000 lives since it began in 1996.

Human rights group Amnesty International has accused both the security forces and the insurgents of killing civilians and committing other atrocities.

Two army soldiers also were killed and another was wounded in the latest gunbattles with the rebels, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

At least 40 guerrillas were killed Thursday night during a gun battle with Nepalese army forces in Lisne, a village some 200 miles west of the capital, Katmandu, the statement said.

It said the fighting in Lisne started when Maoists attacked a team of security forces patrolling the area.

Elsewhere, security forces gunned down at least 50 guerrillas in the village of Bhagal, about 300 miles west of Katmandu, the ministry said.

State-run Radio Nepal quoted its correspondent in the area as saying that 150 rebels had been killed. Neither the ministry's death toll, nor the radio report could be independently confirmed.

The toll was the highest since battles on April 11-12 left more than 200 policemen and guerrilla fighters dead — the deadliest couple of days in the rebels' 6-year-old campaign to replace Nepal's constitutional monarchy with a communist state.

The government intensified its campaign against the rebels after the guerrillas called for a nationwide strike last week that did not get much public support.

The intensified fighting comes ahead of comes ahead of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba's visit to Washington next week. He is scheduled to meet with President Bush (news - web sites) to discuss the insurgency.

The Bush administration recently asked Congress for $20 million in military aid for Nepal.

On Friday, Deuba rejected a reported offer by rebel leader Prachand to hold peace talks. Nepali newspapers on Thursday said they had received a statement from Prachand, whose real name is Pushpa Kamal Dahal, offering to resume talks that ended in a stalemate last year.

"There is no possibility of talks with the guerrillas until they surrender weapons to the security forces," Deuba said.



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