Nepal's soldiers accused of extortion ahead of Olympic torch relay to Everest

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Kathmandu, May 5 : Nepalese soldiers have reportedly threatened to shoot climbers who disobey orders in the run-up to the Olympic torch relay to Mt. Everest.

This has led New Zealand's leading Mt Everest expedition organiser to charge them with extortion.

Adventure Tour managing director Guy Cotter claimed that he had paid 2000 dollars to the soldiers who were treating everyone at the Base Camp as "potential terrorists".

"It is insane. We have paid to cover the costs of the food and fuel for these guys. It is extortion to pay for your own persecutors," stuff.co.nz quoted him, as saying.

Nepalese soldiers moved into Base Camp about two weeks ago to secure Everest's closure while the Beijing Olympic torch is taken to the summit by Chinese organisers.

China has controlled access to the world's highest mountain to prevent Tibetan protests.

Nineteen soldiers patrol the Base Camp and a second camp at an altitude of 6400m, known as Camp Two. Climbers are forbidden from climbing higher than Camp Two.

Cotter claimed that the soldiers had confiscated satellite telephones and communication equipment, delayed the opening of climbing routes and even threatened to shoot climbers who disobey them.

Cotter has 11 climbers and 33 hired Sherpa guides at Base Camp in Nepal and has paid the Nepalese Government 110,000 dollars for climbing permits.

"When the military arrived, they made up their own rules that were different to what we agreed with the Nepalese Government. The rules change on a daily basis. They have caused lots of problems for us as an industry that gives Nepal a lot of money. Our teams have been very poorly treated," he said.

Cotter said the soldiers had warned that anyone seen to be breaking the rules and going above Camp Two would be shot.

Everest should reopen on the Nepalese side on May 10, but a specialist doctor working in the region has warned the late opening may lead to a "catastrophe" when poorly trained climbers struggle at high altitude.

ANI

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