Indefinite curfew after five die in Terai
Mar 21, 2007 - 6:06:17 PM

Kathmandu, March 21 - As much of Nepal stayed paralysed Wednesday by an indefinite strike called by traders to protest atrocities by Maoists, at least five people were killed and over two dozen injured when fresh violence broke out in the southern Terai plains.

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

The district authorities declared an indefinite curfew in the violence-hit town after the violent 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 from this area 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 their mass meetings.

The state 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.

The channel confirmed five deaths, saying they included mostly women and children. Over 20 people were admitted to hospital after being injured in the baton attacks.

The fresh violence comes as the Maoists and seven-party ruling alliance began yet another round of talks in the capital Wednesday to discuss the formation of an interim government in which the rebels are also to be included.

Kathmandu valley and key towns have been reeling under an indefinite strike called from Monday by Nepal's business community to protest against growing extortion and attacks on traders by Maoists.

The growing turmoil has raised UN concern with the chief of the UN Mission in Nepal Ian Martin Wednesday meeting 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 the 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 the exploitation of workers and immediate action against businessmen who had failed to repay bank loans.

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