Five Indians, two locals hurt in Nepal firing
Mar 27, 2007 - 6:03:01 PM

Kathmandu, March 27 - Seven people, including five Indians, were hurt when four men opened fire in a market place in Nepal's frontier disrict Parsa Tuesday raising fears that armed gangs were targeting Indians in a bid to foment ethnic violence in the India-Nepal border area.

The four men, who came on motorcycles, opened indiscriminate fire at the Chandal Chowk, a public square in Alau village in the Terai plains.

Six of the seven injured, Umesh Patel, Jagdish Patel, Amarjit Patel, Ramashish Patel, Vipin Kush and Jagdish were employees of a rice mill and residents of Hajamtola village in India's Bihar state.

Two grievously injured were rushed to the Duncan Hospital in Raxaul while others were being treated at a hospital in Birgunj town.

Preliminary reports hinted that the firing was the work of Indian mobster Chhotelal Sahani and his men who have been terrorising businessmen in the border towns of Nepal, indulging in extortions and abductions and attacking traders when they refuse to pay.

A pamphlet found near the square was signed in Sahani's name and warned businessmen to pay up or face attacks, Nepal's media reported.

However, the state-run Nepal Television showed eyewitnesses as saying the attackers were shouting pro-Maoist slogans.

Security sources indicated that the cartridges recovered from the site were fired from Insas guns used by the Indian Army. The India-made firearms were provided by New Delhi at 70 percent subsidy to the Nepal Army and police to combat the Maoist insurgency.

The Sahani gang is not known to possess Insas guns, neither has it ever targeted people from low income groups.

The firing, it is feared, could be the handiwork of the Maoists, who suffered reverses at the hands of an ethnic group from the plains, the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, Wednesday.

Both sides clashed in Gaur town in frontier district Rautahat last week in which 29 people, many of them civilians, were killed.

The mounting rivalry between the two groups in the Terai plains has widened the communal divide between Nepal's hill and plains communities.

The firing could also be an attempt by vigilant groups formed and armed by King Gyanendra's regime two years ago to suppress the Maoists in the plains.

While several towns in the Terai region are under prohibitory orders after the Gaur massacre, still more violence is being feared with a Terai shutdown called on April 2.

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