Fresh terror in Terai, government to probe killings
Mar 23, 2007 - 3:52:11 PM

Kathmandu, March 23 - The Nepal government Friday formed a four-member team to investigate the Terai plains massacre two days ago that claimed 28 lives, even as fresh gunfire and terror in the area injured one person.

The committee will be headed by appellate court judge Hari Ghimire and includes a government attorney and a senior police official. It has been asked to submit its report within 15 days.

Rautahat district in southern Nepal, whose main town Gaur has been under curfew since Wednesday when the fierce battle between Maoist guerrillas and ethnic protesters took place, saw renewed violence after an armed bandits attacked Baleriya village, a report said.

Striking around 2 a.m., the bandits looted at least 16 houses at gunpoint, firing when villagers tried to resist, private radio station Himalayan Broadcasting Corporation said Friday.

A villager was injured in the firing and was rushed to Kathmandu for treatment after nearby Birgunj town's hospitals said they would not be able to treat him, the station said.

The attack came even as Gaur, the scene of Wednesday's carnage that also left dozens injured, lay under curfew and tight security.

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala had called an emergency meeting of his cabinet where the ministers discussed the carnage in Gaur that has left the international community shocked.

The bodies of the victims were brought to Kathmandu's Maharajgunj Teaching Hospital for autopsy.

On Friday, they were taken to Tundikhel, the public grounds in the capital. This was at the behest of the Maoists, who have called a rally to protest the killings. Nineteen of the dead have been identified as Maoist supporters. The dead include five women.

Hospital sources said the victims were aged mostly between 18 and 23 years and blows with sharp objects and firearms were the primary causes of death.

The UN has called for an impartial investigation since clashes erupted in the southern town between Maoists and the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, an ethnic group that recently came into the limelight with its movement in the plains for an autonomous Madhes state for Terai people.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights sent its Nepal chief Lena Sundh to Gaur to investigate the violence.

The Koirala government, since it came to power last year, has been forming a series of commissions to stop international criticism but none of the reports have been implemented.

Wednesday's clash occurred after the Maoists and Forum laid stake to the same public square to hold their mass meetings at the same time. Town residents said though the Forum had announced its programme a fortnight ago, Maoists started planning their meet at the same venue a day before.

Since this year, Maoists have been attacking rallies held by other political parties. They have also attacked Forum meetings in the Terai plains.

While the Forum is blaming the Maoists and the government, the Maoists are holding King Gyanendra and Hindu extremists from India responsible.

Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula Thursday visited Gaur with Maoist leader Krishna Bahadur Mahara, sharing the same public podium with him, raising doubts about the impartiality of the probe.

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