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Fresh protests erupt in Nepal against king's rule

Written by: Staff

KATHMANDU, Apr 7 (Reuters) Hundreds of anti-king protesters took to the streets of Nepal today, burning tyres, hurling stones at police and chanting pro-democracy slogans as a four-day nationwide general strike entered its second day.

The strike and protests have been called by the Himalayan kingdom's seven main political parties in what they hope will be a definitive campaign against King Gyanendra, who sacked the government and grabbed control of the nation last year.

Students shouting ''Death to Gyanendra'' charged at riot police in the Tribhuvan University campus in the capital, as dozens of tear gas shells were fired at them.

Carrying a Communist Party flag, hundreds of students hurled rocks at police. Some beat up a constable who got separated from his comrades.

Riot police also fired tear gas shells and rubber bullets at protesters in Lalitpur town in the capital region, where the government has banned protests.

Protesters set fire to a post office, which was doused. Tyres were thrown on the road and set on fire at one place.

Demonstrators in other parts of the Kathmandu valley dispersed peacefully but promised to return later in the day.

''Vacate Narayanhiti, Democratic Republic is arriving,'' some activists shouted, referring to the royal palace in Kathmandu.

''We want Democracy'', ''Down with Gyanendra'', ''Gyanendra leave the country'', others chanted while some student activists whistled and taunted riot police.

In Kirtipur, an ancient town outside Kathmandu, protesters blocked roads to prevent police reinforcements before marching through the town shouting slogans against the king.

''We are being peaceful and we will do everything peacefully to get our rights back,'' said Om Thapliyal, a Kirtipur activist.

''NON-STOP MOVEMENT'' Although pro-democracy protests have become routine since King Gyanendra took power in February 2005, political parties say the latest demonstrations will be the largest so far and hope they will be decisive in bringing democracy back.

The latest campaign is backed by Nepal's Maoist insurgents, who have been waging a bloody battle since 1996 to topple the monarchy and establish communist rule.

But the rebels are not taking part in the protests and have announced an indefinite ceasefire in the Kathmandu region to help the political demonstrations.

The main rally is due in Kathmandu on Saturday, April 8, the day multi-party democracy was established 16 years ago.

''There will be massive demonstrations on Saturday. This movement will not stop until the people's rights are restored,'' Shobhakhar Parajuli, a top official of the biggest political party, Nepali Congress, told Reuters.

The royalist government says it does not trust the guerrillas and has thrown a security blanket over the hill-ringed capital of 1.5 million people, including stationing armoured vehicles on some main streets.

The Maoist revolt has killed more than 13,000 people, wrecked the economy of one of the 10 poorest countries in the world and forced thousands of people to flee the fighting in the countryside, largely controlled by the rebels.

The king justified his takeover saying political parties had failed to crush the Maoists and hold elections.

Amnesty International urged the royalist government to release political detainees.

''Targeting leaders of the peaceful political opposition is not only wrong, it is dangerous,'' Purna Sen, the group's Asia-Pacific director, said in a statement.


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