- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 13, 2002

KATMANDU, Nepal Hundreds of government troops took control yesterday of an area where rebels armed with bombs and guns attacked four towns in western Nepal and killed 48 policemen and six civilians.
Gunbattles raged into yesterday morning between rebels and the police after the attacks Thursday night on the federal interior security minister's house, a police station, two banks and a bus in Dang district, 190 miles west of the capital, Katmandu.
"Reinforcement has been sent from both the capital and around in the area, who have launched a massive search," said the junior internal security minister, Devendra Raj Kadel.
It was one of the bloodiest attacks in the rebels' 6-year-old campaign to replace Nepal's constitutional monarchy with a communist state. More than 3,000 people have been killed in the insurgency.
"People in the area are terrified with most of the people refusing to leave their homes. There are bodies everywhere. Though additional forces have reached the area, people are not feeling secure," said Suraj Khatri Chetri, a journalist in the area, contacted by telephone.
The rebels, who belong to a banned group calling itself the Nepal Communist Party (Maoist), usually don't issue statements after attacks and do not operate offices in the country.
Rights group Amnesty International has accused both the security forces and the Maoists of killing civilians and committing other atrocities.
The fiercest attack took place on the house of Interior Security Minister Khum Bahadur Khadka in Satbariya, which was being guarded by at least 120 personnel of the newly formed armed police force. It was established last year to quell the insurgency.
Officials said the rebels hurled bombs at the minister's house and opened fire at guards, triggering a battle that lasted several hours. At least 35 policemen were killed, said Mr. Kadel. It was not immediately known if any guerrillas were killed.
Mr. Kadel said that in the nearby town of Lamahi, the rebels raided a police station, killing 13 policemen and injuring 15. The guerrillas also waylaid a bus on a highway and killed six civilians before setting the vehicle on fire, Mr. Kadel said.
The rebels also bombed two banks in Lamahi and the electricity-supply house, cutting power and communication in the area.
State-run Nepal Television showed pictures of the dead policemen and the charred remains of the police station.
While retreating, the rebels blocked roads leading to the area with logs making rescue efforts difficult.
Another group of rebels attacked Ghorahi, the headquarters of Dang district, and Tulsipur, but were repulsed by the military after a gunbattle. There were no casualties.
A state of emergency was imposed on Nov. 26 by King Gyanendra after the rebels withdrew from peace talks, and the army was mobilized to help the police fight the guerrillas.
Led by commander Prachanda whose real name is Pushpa Kamal Dahal the rebels began fighting in 1996 from the remote mountainous areas.

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