- The Washington Times - Friday, May 23, 2008

KATMANDU, Nepal (Agence France-Presse) - Post-election violence briefly shut down Katmandu this week, and local reports said yesterday that Nepal’s embattled king was preparing to leave his palace shortly.

King Gyanendra was likely to move to Nagarjun, a palace on the outskirts of the city, before he loses his status and becomes a common citizen, newspapers reported yesterday.

He has been ordered to leave the city-center Narayanhiti palace before the first meeting of the constitution-writing assembly, on Wednesday, when it is set to formally end the monarchy, turning the impoverished nation into a republic.

“There is a possibility that the suspended king will leave Narayanhiti palace around the time of the deadline he was given to leave,” the state-run Gorkhapatra newspaper reported yesterday.

The king is eventually expected to move to a private residence.

A day earlier, protests over the murder of a businessman by Maoists brought the capital to a standstill.

Groups of young men at major intersections in Katmandu were forcing people off the roads. The only vehicles on the streets were U.N., diplomatic vehicles and the occasional tourist bus.

“The Katmandu valley has been effectively closed by the strike. All schools and major markets are shut,” Katmandu police chief Sabendra Khanal told Agence France-Presse.

The Maoists, regularly under fire for their human rights record, have admitted that their cadre abducted and killed Ram Hari Shrestha, a Katmandu businessman and supporter of the former rebels, late last month.

Mr. Shrestha’s family have said the Maoists falsely accused him of being involved in stealing $26,000 and a handgun from a house he rented out to them. They say the ultra-leftists beat him to death and dumped his body in a river.

Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, also known as Prachanda, has said the killing was an isolated incident carried out by “some selfish elements” within his party.

Janardan Sharma, a deputy commander of the Maoists’ People’s Liberation Army, vowed to bring Mr. Shrestha’s killers to justice.

“We have promised that we will find the culprits and that they will be punished,” he said.

But the Maoists said the political parties they defeated in recent polls were trying to make capital out of the killing.

Activists from parties beaten by the Maoists could be seen on the streets enforcing a general strike called to protest the killing.

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