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Nepal troops, rebels clash kills 29

Written by: Staff
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KATHMANDU, March 1 (Reuters) Twenty-nine people, including 18 Maoist rebels and 11 soldiers and police, were killed in a clash in western Nepal, the defence ministry said today.

The incident occurred yesterday in a remote area of Arghakhanchi district, 350 kms (220 miles) west of the capital Kathmandu, a ministry statement said.

A journalist in Palpa town, near the site of fighting, said he saw bodies lying in pools of blood when he visited the scene.

''We saw only 21 bodies,'' said Kamal Parajuli. ''They were scattered over a large area in the jungle. One body was in pieces.

It was a big battle. People in the nearby villages are terrorised.'' The Maoists have a strong presence in the area, and last week 16 rebels were killed in a clash nearby.

Parajuli said dozens of soldiers were patrolling the area with helicopters and small army planes providing air cover.

In a separate encounter, two rebels were killed in another western district, Darchula.

Violence has surged since the Maoists ended a four-month truce in January after the government failed to match it, with more than 200 people being killed in clashes.

More than 13,000 people have died in the decade since the rebels took up arms vowing to overthrow the country's monarchy and establish a communist state.

The Maoists have vowed to target Kathmandu and other towns, extending their revolt to cities from the countryside.

REUTERS SBJ PM2116

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