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Twenty-one Maoists, 10 police killed in Nepal

Written by: Staff
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KATHMANDU, Mar 21 (Reuters) At least 21 Maoist rebels and 10 police were killed as violence escalated across Nepal today following the end of a rebel-led road blockade, authorities said.

13 soldiers and one rebel were killed yesterday in a gun battle east of the capital, Kathmandu, a day after rebels ended a six-day blockade that had choked supplies and disrupted transport across the mountainous nation.

Maoists have stepped up attacks on security bases and on towns and cities since January, when they ended a unilateral ceasefire after the government refused to reciprocate.

More than 13,000 people have died since the conflict began in 1996. The rebels are fighting to topple Nepal's Hindu monarchy and set up a communist republic.

The army said its soldiers had killed at least 20 rebels at Darechowk in Dhading district today a Maoist stronghold 80 km west of Kathmandu.

''The operation was launched after a tip-off that the rebels had gathered at a place there,'' an army officer said.

The Maoists have made no comment on the claim.

The army suffered no losses, but police said they had lost 10 of their men in two attacks by the rebels in the east.

In a separate incident, officials said hundreds of Maoist rebels stormed a police post in eastern Nepal and killed nine police, while one rebel also died in the clash.

A police officer said more than 300 rebels, known for hit-and-run attacks on poorly equipped security bases, arrived in buses and trucks and stormed the post at Birtamod, a bustling town in a tea-producing region 600 km east of the capital.

''At least 20 policemen have been wounded and rushed to a hospital,'' he said.

A senior local government official, Bhola Shiwakoti, said more troops had been rushed to the site.

Police said rebels also had gunned down a police officer in the nearby town of Dharan.

REUTERS SHB RK1440

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