12 die in Terai clashes, indefinite curfew clamped
Mar 21, 2007 - 8:05:05 PM
Kathmandu, March 21 - At least 12 people were killed and over two dozen injured when fresh violence broke out in the southern Terai plains Wednesday even as much of Nepal stayed paralysed by an indefinite strike called by traders to protest Maoists' atrocities.
A team of UN officers that rushed to investigate the violence in Gaur town in Rautahat district confirmed the deaths of at least 12 people, including two women, as people from the Terai plains demanding an autonomous state fought a pitched battle with Maoists.
Quoting hospital sources, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said that some victims died as a result of head injuries caused by beatings with bamboo sticks.
The toll could rise further with dozens of people being admitted to hospital.
The district authorities declared an indefinite curfew in the violence-hit town after the clash between the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, the group demanding an autonomous Madhes state, and the Madhes Rastriya Mukti Morcha, the plains wing of the Maoists.
Violence had been anticipated since the morning when both groups began preparations to hold mass meetings at the same venue.
Since the Forum shot into the limelight recently with its Terai movement forcing the seven-party government to concede its demand for a federal system of governance, they have been at loggerheads with the Maoists trying to break their strikes and attacking their mass meetings.
The state-run Nepal Television channel said Forum activists tore down the dais constructed by the Maoists in Gaur, triggering retaliation that turned into a stampede as people started firing.
It confirmed five deaths, saying they included women and children. Over 20 people were admitted to hospital after being injured in baton attacks.
Fresh violence comes as the Maoists and the seven-party ruling alliance began yet another round of talks in the capital Wednesday to discuss formation of an interim government in which the former rebels will be included.
The Kathmandu valley and key towns have been reeling under an indefinite strike called since Monday by Nepal's business community to protest against incidents of extortion and attacks on its members by Maoists.
The growing turmoil has raised UN concern with the chief of the UN Mission in Nepal Ian Martin Wednesday meeting Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala to urge action against people breaking the law.
'Any misconduct by any party should be properly investigated,' Martin said, referring to the abduction of a hotelier by the rebels and his subsequent assault, allegedly for refusing to pay them Nepali Rs.2 million.
'If it involves criminal action, they should be prosecuted,' Martin said.
The traders have threatened to continue their protest until the government makes a commitment that it will provide them security.
Meanwhile, the All Nepal Trade Union Federation - began staging protests in the capital, demanding an end to exploitation of workers and immediate action against businessmen who had failed to repay bank loans.
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