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Fresh protests in Nepal despite curfew, security

Written by: Staff

KATHMANDU, Apr 9: Thousands of angry Nepalis tried to storm a state hospital today, burned government vehicles and clashed with riot police despite a curfew aimed at stopping pro-democracy rallies.

A woman, wounded in police firing in a town south of the capital Kathmandu, died today, a doctor said.

Three people, including the woman, were wounded at Narayanghat, about 150 km from Kathmandu, when troops fired at protesters demanding King Gyanendra end his absolute rule.

''She died this morning,'' Bhojraj Adhikary, a doctor at a local hospital, told Reuters by phone.

It was the second death in shooting by government forces on protesters during a four-day anti-monarchy strike across the poor Himalayan kingdom that started on Thursday.

Tension was rising in Narayanghat, witnesses said, adding that a curfew had not stopped people from coming out on the streets.

In the western tourist resort town of Pokhara, thousands of people tried to storm a state hospital where the body of a man shot dead by troops yesterday was taken, witnesses said.

The crowd burned some security posts in the area and clashed with riot police who tried to stop them for violating a curfew.

''Thousands of people are out on the streets. There is high ension here,'' said Keshav Lamichhane, a local journalist.

The army yesterday said it opened fire in Pokhara in self defence when a mob tried to attack a telephone office.


Nepal's seven main political parties had planned a big rally against the king in Kathmandu yesterday but tough security meant that only a handful of small protests could be held in brief defiance of a curfew. However, activists broke the curfew today in some places in the capital and set government vehicles on fire and burned tyres on roads.

Earlier, the royalist government announced another day-long curfew in the capital today and mobile phone services remained disrupted in a measure seen aimed at scuttling demonstrations.

''The people will not be cowed down like this. It shows the regime is already defeated,'' said Arjun Narsingh K C, a top leader of the Nepali Congress, the largest political party.

''We will again try to march towards the city centre and protest.

We will continue until we succeed. Our protests will not stop,'' he told Reuters.

Security remained tight with soldiers and armed police patrolling the streets and armoured personnel carriers mounted with heavy machine guns stationed at some intersections.

Yesterday was the 16th anniversary of the start of multi-party democracy in the world's only Hindu kingdom, sandwiched between Asian giants India and China.

Nepal, which has been battling a bloody Maoist revolt for a decade, was pushed deeper into turmoil after King Gyanendra grabbed power in February 2005, saying political parties had failed to crush the rebellion which has killed thousands.

While much of the impoverished country has remained shut down due to the general strike, the king has been away from Kathmandu, touring the districts for nearly two months now.

The rebels are for the first time supporting the campaign by the political parties as part of a loose alliance formed in November and have declared a ceasefire in and around Kathmandu.


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