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Maoist rebels attack Nepal town, free prisoners

Written by: Staff

KATHMANDU, Mar 6: Hundreds of Maoist rebels raided a town in eastern Nepal, bombing government buildings and freeing dozens of prisoners from a local jail, officials said today.

A policeman and at least one guerrilla were killed in the overnight attack in Ilam, a tea-growing area bordering India, about 600 km (375 miles) east of Kathmandu, they said.

The guerrillas, who specialise in hit-and-run attacks, drove into Ilam in buses and trucks, attacking government buildings and shooting at security posts, residents said.

''The Maoists also stormed the local jail and freed more than 100 prisoners including some Maoists,'' a police officer said by phone.

He said the rebels, who are fighting to overthrow Nepal's constitutional monarchy, bombed or set fire to the district administration office building, the revenue office and the local municipal council office.

''We spent the night in terror,'' Ilam housewife Kamala Bhattarai told Reuters. ''We could hear gun shots and explosions for several hours.'' More than a dozen security troops were wounded in the fighting.

The rebels also set ablaze the home of the mayor who was elected in last month's municipal elections opposed by the Maoists, journalist Rohit Chandra Bhattarai said.

''The building is still smouldering. No one has come out of their homes. People are scared,'' he said.

Bhattarai said the fighting continued until dawn when an army helicopter was seen and the rebels sped away in buses.

The Maoists, fighting since 1996 for a single party communist state, have stepped up attacks since they ended their unilateral truce in January after the royalist government failed to reciprocate.

More than 13,000 people have been killed in the revolt that has shattered Nepal's aid dependent economy, one of the world's 10 poorest.


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