World Bank warns Nepal over engineer's murder
May 17, 2007 - 3:52:48 PM

Kathmandu, May 17 - Expressing shock at the murder of an engineer working on one of its projects in Nepal, the World Bank Thursday warned the eight-party government it would re-think its assistance if development workers faced risks to their lives.

The warning came after an armed band of former Maoists last week kidnapped Navaraj Bista, an engineer working on the Rural Access Improvement and Decentralization Project funded by the World Bank and murdered him.

Bista and three other project staff were abducted while returning from field training in Siraha district in southeastern Nepal on May 11.

The next day, his dead body was found in the area. The other three members however were released later.

The responsibility for the abductions and killing was claimed by the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha, a group of former Maoists led by a senior former rebel leader, Jay Krishna Goit.

The murder triggered outrage with engineers holding a protest rally in Kathmandu.

Condemning the killing, Ken Ohashi, World Bank country director for Nepal, said 'Development workers, be they engineers, teachers, or health care providers, should not be subjected to political violence.

'If their safety is not assured, we will be forced to assess whether our development assistance should continue in such areas,' the official warned.

Though the Maoists last year signed a peace pact with the government and pledged to stop violence, armed groups, including bands of former Maoists, have been spreading terror in the Terai plains with regular extortion, abductions and internecine war.

Two factions of the Morcha are currently at each other's throats, resulting in regular shootouts.

The increase in the factions' activities since this year made the US government recently declare them terrorist organisations, along with the Maoists.

Though the Nepal government formed a team of ministers to begin peace talks with different dissenting groups, the armed factions are yet to heed the call for dialogue.

They claim they have taken up arms to protect the rights of the plains people who have been ignored and exploited by both a succession of governments and the Maoists.

This is the first public warning given to the new government of Nepal from a foreign agency, highlighting the ruling alliance's failure to improve the law and order situation.

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