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Curfew in West Nepal, 7 dead in protests

By Shirish B Pradhan in Kathmandu
April 19, 2006 12:03 IST
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The royal government of Nepal mposed a daylong curfew on Wednesday in a western town and gave security forces shoot-at-sight orders. This comes on the heels of the death of a female agitator, who succumbed to injuries sustained during clashes with the police, taking the death toll from protests to seven.

The state-run Radio Nepal's announcement said the curfew would be imposed in the city of Pokhara, about 200 kilometers west of Kathmandu. Anyone violating the curfew would be shot, the Radio said, as the pro-democracy agitation entered the 14th day on Wednesday.

The order was imposed after at least 50 agitators were injured in firing and baton charge in the Pokhara on Tuesday,  when thousands participated in protests calling for King Gyanendra's ouster.

However, demonstrators defied the government's daytime curfew and launched massive rallies. School teachers and civil society members participated in the pro-democracy rally, party sources said.

Meanwhile, a woman hit by a tear gas shell fired by police to disperse thousands of protesters in southwest Nepal has died, party sources said. The woman was protesting in Nepalgunj, southwest of Kathmandu, when she was hit on Tuesday. She succumbed to injuries late in the night. She is the seventh person to be killed during the two-week long agitation.

On Wednesday, the seven-party alliance dismissed the political consultation started by the King as a futile exercise. "This is a futile exercise, it has no meaning at this moment," said Nepali Congress (Democratic) acting president Gopalman Shrestha.

The King has, so far, met four former prime ministers and continued consultation with other loyalists. "We have bitter experience of such initiatives in the past, which are ploys to confuse the people," Nepal Communist Party-UML acting general secretary Amrit Kumar Bohara said. The consultation in no way seems aimed at addressing people's aspirations for resolution to the crisis, he added.

The US ambassador to Nepal, James F Moriarty, was summoned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday. He was summoned for his comments against the monarch in an interview with CNN, The Kathmandu Post daily said.

The government has also announced compensation to the family of Hira Lal Gautam of Nijgadh, Bara in southern Nepal who was killed by Army firing during demonstrations few days ago, according to the National News Agency.

In a separate incident, two soldiers have died in a blast in Taulihawa Army barrack in Kapilvastu district and two Maoist rebels were killed in an operation launched by the security forces on Tuesday, the Defence Ministry said.

The seven-party alliance has announced a massive rally on Thursday to mark the start of the third week of their pro-democracy agitation, defying government's warning of a further crackdown.

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Shirish B Pradhan in Kathmandu