Nepal Maoists resume arms, attack police post
May 1, 2007 - 5:16:32 PM

Kathmandu, May 1 - The fragile peace process in Nepal has received a body blow with Maoists resuming arms and attacking a police station, less than a month after they joined the government, formally ending their decade-old guerrilla war.

Hundreds of guerrillas stormed the Suiya police post in Banke district, a rebel stronghold, Monday night and imprisoned the policemen on duty, including their chief, inspector Mukesh Kumar, the state media said Tuesday.

The district authorities dispatched additional policemen and armed police force personnel to the area, who were able to free five policemen.

The attack, for which no immediate cause was offered, was led by a local Maoist leader, Nand Kishore Pandey. The security reinforcement team Tuesday located the five captured policemen at his residence and freed them.

They also recovered four firearms looted from the police post from the Maoist leader's residence, said Narendra Raj Sharma, the chief district officer.

However, Nepal's government that has been fighting shy of taking action against the rebels, did not immediately arrest Pandey.

Sharma evaded questions about the arrest, saying he was not in touch with the security reinforcement team.

Private television channel Kantipur said the policemen had hinted at collusion between the Maoists and cross-border smugglers.

The police post, intended to guard a section of the Indo-Nepal open border, had halted cross-border smuggling, especially of precious sandalwood, which could be a reason for the attack on it by the Maoists, the channel said.

The Maoist leadership was not available for comment.

The attack comes a day after the UN said the guerrillas were not following the peace pact, in which they have pledged to return the public property they had captured during the insurgency and allow displaced people to return home.

The Office of the UN Human Rights High Commissioner in Nepal said its personnel had noted during their field trips that many displaced people were yet to return home for fear of the Maoist cadres.

It said it had also received reports of people trying to return but were chased away.

'Such conditions are not part of the November 2006 comprehensive peace agreement,' the UN body said.

The attacks also come at a time when UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's special representative for Nepal has raised concern at the guerrillas preventing verification of their soldiers.

According to a tripartite arms pact between the government, the Maoists and the UN, the Maoists are expected to confine their soldiers to cantonments and lock up arms under UN supervision.

Before leaving for New York Tuesday to brief the UN Security Council, the envoy Ian Martin said he was concerned that the rebels were not allowing verification of their soldiers in the camps.

'This is essential for two purposes,' Martin said. 'To identify minors who under the agreement must be discharged, and to determine whether personnel were recruited after 25 May 2006, in breach of the ceasefire code of conduct.'

However, the rebels now say they will not allow verification till the conditions in their camps are improved and the future of the soldiers discussed, a ploy to stall the process.

Martin said the UN would not accept any preconditions.

Monday's attack strengthens the growing fear that the rebels still have a large number of soldiers and arms outside the barracks.

Though the pact between the guerrillas and the government last year raised hopes of peace, the alliance has been seeing a growing rift in recent times.

The rebels have been pressuring the ruling alliance to abolish monarchy through a declaration in parliament instead of holding a poll, as decided earlier.

The parties allege that the guerrillas are still continuing with extortion and violence in violation of the peace pact.

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