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Nepal Maoist rebels kidnap four Poles - group

Written by: Staff
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KATHMANDU, Mar 27 (Reuters) Nepal's Maoist rebels have kidnapped four hikers from Poland, a language promotion group they were associated with said today, although a Polish official said it was too early to call the incident a kidnapping.

There was no comment from the Maoist rebels who have not harmed foreign tourists in the past and state-run Nepal Tourism Board said it was trying to verify the report.

Nepala Esperanto Asocio, a group promoting the international Esperanto language in Nepal, said the four Poles were seized last week while on their way to Lukla, a popular destination for foreign hikers in the Everest region which is about 200 km east of Kathmandu.

''One of the four hikers called us on Thursday and said they had been kidnapped by the Maoists,'' Bharat Kumar Ghimire, a top official of the language group, said on Monday, but did not give more details.

Ghimire identified the hikers as Marzena Staniszewska and Wojcich Mysiara, who came to Nepal to attend an Esperanto conference in Kathmandu.

They were accompanied by other two Polish trekkers whose names he gave as Konrad Kakolewjki and Maria Los.

The chief of the counsellor section in the Polish Embassy in India which oversees Nepal said it had asked the Nepali Embassy in India to find out details from Kathmandu.

''We don't know about all aspects of this. It is too early to formalise such thinking,'' Mike Kaminski told Reuters in New Delhi when asked if the four Polish citizens had been kidnapped.

''Maybe it is not (a kidnapping).'' Nepali authorities were scrambling for information.

''We are trying to find out the reality about them,'' chief of Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) Tek Bahadur Dangi, said.

Officials in the Polish embassy in New Delhi, under whose jurisdiction Nepal falls, could not be contacted.

Nepal's Maoist rebels have a strong presence in the Lukla area but have said their policy is not to harm foreign tourists, a key source of income for the impoverished but scenic nation.

The Maoists, however, have collected ''tax'' from tourists.

The conflict in Nepal, home to eight of the world's 14 highest mountains including Mount Everest, has killed more than 13,000 people since 1996 and scared away many tourists from the rugged nation, sandwiched between giants India and China.

REUTERS SY KN1505

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