Vol. 5 Num 574 Fri. January 06, 2006  

Nepali Maoists launch fresh attacks

Five people including three civilians were wounded as Nepal's Maoist rebels launched a string of attacks yesterday, days after they ended a four-month truce, police and witnesses said.

Two police officers and a civilian were hurt in a shooting in the town of Mahendranagar, the largest in the district of Kanchenpur, a rebel stronghold 650km west of the capital, Kathmandu.

"Eight police officers were on their way to replace their colleagues when the Maoists fired on them," a police officer told Reuters.

One officer was hit in the stomach and the other in the chest. A 62-year-old passer-by was also wounded.

Hours later, two men walked into a government office in Biratnagar, a bustling business city 500km east of Kathmandu, and left a bomb after telling employees to flee.

"Minutes later, the bomb went off [injuring] two people," said local journalist Bickram Niraula.

In the tourist town of Pokhara, Nepal's second city, another bomb was detonated but no-one was hurt.

"The bomb appeared to have been fitted on a bicycle. It went off minutes after an army truck passed by," said Keshav Lamichhane, a journalist in Pokhara, 200km west of Kathmandu.

On Monday, the rebels -- who have been fighting since 1996 to topple the Hindu monarchy and set up a single-party communist state -- ended a four-month unilateral ceasefire, accusing government forces of provoking the move.

The government, appointed by King Gyanendra after he seized total control in February vowing to crush the insurgency which has killed more than 12,500 people, said troops were on alert across the country to avert further attacks by the Maoists.