- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 8, 2006

KATMANDU, Nepal — Security forces fired on anti-monarch demonstrators in separate marches yesterday, killing one and wounding five as the government escalated its crackdown on those seeking a return of democracy.

Authorities said they would extend a dawn-to-dusk curfew in the capital to a second day today after opposition parties announced plans to hold a rally.

The curfew will be imposed from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in Katmandu and its surrounding areas, and gives security forces orders to shoot any violators, a notice on the state-run Nepal Television said.

Meanwhile, thousands of activists rampaged through the southern town of Bharatpur, burning government offices and forcing riot police to retreat from the town square before officers opened fire, a government official said.

Police fired bullets and tear gas to disperse the protesters, who are demanding that King Gyanendra restore democracy in this Himalayan kingdom. Three women bystanders were injured, the official said.

In the resort town of Pokhara, about 125 miles west of Katmandu, protester Gangadhar Baral said he was among a group of people throwing stones at security forces when the soldiers shot at them.

“We were protesting, and some of us were throwing stones at the soldiers. Suddenly, the soldiers fired shots at us. One of my friends was killed instantly,” Mr. Baral said at the hospital in Pokhara. A hospital doctor confirmed the death.

In Katmandu, the government’s curfew and shoot-on-sight orders crushed opposition plans for a massive anti-monarchy rally, emptying the roads and sending demonstrators indoors after two days of violent protests.

Streets quickly emptied, and soldiers patrolled the streets in vans, pickup trucks and armored cars. Tourists were only allowed to travel to or from the airport.

The rally in the capital was intended to be the high point of a four-day general strike called by Nepal’s seven main opposition parties to pressure Gyanendra to restore democracy. The opposition strike, which runs through today, shut down public transport, shops and schools.

Gyanendra seized power in February last year, claiming the government failed to quell a growing communist insurgency. About 13,000 people have been killed since the Maoists launched their insurgency in 1996.

Authorities have cracked down forcefully on the protests. On Friday, police battled protesters in the narrow alleys of Katmandu, using batons and tear gas to beat back stone-throwing students. The number of pro-democracy advocates arrested swelled to 751, a government minister said.

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