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Nepali protester said shot dead by troops at rally

Written by: Staff

Kathmandu, Apr 8: Nepali troops opened fire today on activists protesting against King Gyanendra's rule, killing one man, a political party said, as tight security elsewhere prevented big demonstrations in the troubled nation.

The man was shot dead in the resort town of Pokhara, about 200 km (125 miles) west of the capital Kathmandu, during a pro-democracy rally, Yogesh Bhattarai, a senior leader of the Communist Party of Nepal (UML), told Reuters.

''He was shot in his head and he died instantly,'' Bhattarai said. More details were not immediately available.

Pokhara was hit by massive protests through the day with activists fighting pitched battles with troops who fired dozens of tear gas shells to quell them, witnesses said by phone.

The violence came on the 16th anniversary of democracy in the Himalayan kingdom, sandwiched between Asian giants India and China, where mainstream political parties began a four-day nationwide general strike and protests on Thursday.

The parties had planned a massive show of strength with a big rally in the heart of Kathmandu on Saturday.

But stringent security, which included armoured personnel carriers with machine gun-wielding soldiers, blocked access to the venue and foiled their plans.

Soldiers and baton-wielding policemen patrolled the deserted streets of Kathmandu and ordered people indoors as an 11-hour curfew began at 10 a.m. (0415 GMT).

''We have changed our plans and are taking out smaller protests away from the main venue because of the curfew,'' Bhattarai said.

''We will use the Pokhara killing and hold a large protest in Kathmandu tomorrow,'' he added.

Dozens of young activists elsewhere on the outskirts of the capital tried to defy the curfew and clashed with riot police.

''Gyanendra leave the country'', ''Death to Gyanendra'', ''Long Live Democratic Republic'', the youths shouted before pelting stones at riot police. The police responded by charging at them with batons and firing tear gas shells to disperse them.


The main political parties have formed a loose alliance with Maoist rebels to remove the monarch and the insurgents have announced an indefinite ceasefire in the Kathmandu region to help the demonstrations.

The monarch says he was forced to take power because the parties had failed to crush the Maoist revolt, which has killed more than 13,000 people since it started in 1996.

Kathmandu residents said mobile phone and some Internet services were disrupted, although there was no official announcement about links being cut.

''Residents should not come out of their houses. Security forces could shoot violators or police could arrest them and jail them up to one month,'' the government said in a statement about the curfew.

Armoured personnel carriers, mounted with heavy machine guns, were stationed at several main thoroughfares of the city while security vehicles carrying dozens of armed forces drove through main streets.

''This is the defeated mentality of the government. How long will they impose curfew and arrest people?'' said Amrit Kumar Bohara, another top leader of the Communist Party of Nepal (UML), the country's second largest political group.

''The protests will continue. We can't stop them. If not in Kathmandu, we'll hold them in other cities,'' he told Reuters.

Yesterday, hundreds of students burned tyres, hurled stones and chanted pro-democracy slogans as they fought pitched battles with police firing tear gas.

''You can't solve the problem with curfew. It hurts ordinary people,'' said Suraraj Bhattarai, who works in a Kathmandu restaurant.

''People are rising against suppression and they cannot be crushed like this,'' he said.


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