At least five killed in fresh Terai violence
Mar 21, 2007 - 3:48:09 PM

Kathmandu, March 21 - At least five people were killed in Nepal's Terai region Wednesday in fresh violence between Maoists and ethnic protesters, as the indefinite strike called by traders against atrocities by the guerrillas entered its third day.

People from the Terai plains demanding an autonomous state fought a pitched battle with the Maoists in Gaur town in Rautahat district in southern Nepal, and state-run Nepal Television channel said the toll could be as high as eight.

The area had been simmering with tension since morning with both the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, the group demanding an autonomous Madhes state in the south, and the Madhes Mukti Morcha, the plains wing of the Maoists, expressing their determination to hold mass meetings at the same venue.

Since the Forum shot into the limelight with their Terai movement, forcing the seven-party government to concede their demand for a federal system of governance, they have been at loggerheads with the Maoists trying to break their strikes and attacking mass meetings.

With the Forum fighting back, both sides have sustained casualties in the new movement in Nepal.

According to preliminary reports in the state-run channel, Forum activists tore down the dais constructed by the Maoists in Gaur, triggering retaliation that saw both sides firing bullets.

The channel confirmed five deaths, saying they included a woman and a 15-year-old boy.

It also said three more people were feared to have been killed in the clashes, taking the toll to eight.

The fresh violence comes even as both the Maoists and Terai protesters have been accusing the government of being busy in squabbling over the division of ministries and paying no heed to the Terai impasse that has affected life in the plains for nearly three months.

Kathmandu valley and key towns have been paralysed by the double blow by Nepal's business community, who announced an indefinite strike from Monday to protest against growing extortion and attacks on traders by Maoists.

The growing turmoil has raised UN concerns - chief of the UN Mission in Nepal Ian Martin Wednesday met 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.

While the business strike entered its third day today with protesters saying they would keep it up till the government showed true power and commitment to provide security, the Maoist trade union responsible for the hotelier's abduction hit out.

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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