Police Struggle to Enforce Curfew in Nepal's Capital
Monday, April 24, 2006
KATHMANDU, Nepal, April 24 -- Nepali police fired rubber bullets at thousands of protesters Sunday, struggling to enforce a curfew imposed to keep persistent pro-democracy demonstrators off the streets in the Himalayan country's deepening crisis.
The protesters were trying to enter the city limits of Kathmandu, the capital, when police fired tear gas, then rubber bullets, independent Kantipur Television reported. Doctors at a hospital said they treated three people injured by rubber bullets.
Later, communist rebels attacked security bases and government buildings in Nepal's mountainous north-central region, officials said Monday. There was no immediate information on injuries or the extent of damage in the attacks overnight in Chautara, east of Kathmandu.
Kathmandu was under a day-long curfew for the fourth straight day. On Saturday, clashes between security forces and tens of thousands of demonstrators left more than 200 people injured.
The protesters have refused to quit despite King Gyanendra's offer to allow the alliance of seven opposition parties behind the protests and a general strike to nominate a prime minister and form a government.
Opposition leaders said the king's offer to resolve a crisis that began after he seized absolute power in February 2005 fell short of a key opposition demand: the return of parliament and creation of a special assembly to write a constitution.
The chaos has stoked worries around the world of a humanitarian crisis in Nepal, one of the world's poorest countries. Many also worry that a political vacuum could give the Maoist rebels -- who have seized control of much of the countryside in a bloody, 10-year insurgency -- a route to power.
The opposition called for protests to continue throughout the week, including a massive rally Tuesday along the ring road that skirts the capital.
Sunday's curfew was to last 11 hours in and around the capital, but state television later reported that it had been shortened by an hour and would end at 7 p.m.
The army strung barbed wire to block some inner alleys and major intersections in Kathmandu on Sunday. Small groups of protesters demonstrated inside the city as soldiers patrolled in armored personnel carriers.
Thousands of people marched elsewhere in Kathmandu's Kalanki and Gangabu neighborhoods -- the center of the protests since the opposition campaign against Gyanendra began April 6.
By late afternoon, the protests had degenerated, with young men hurling bricks and bottles at police, who responded with tear gas and baton charges.
Nepal's crisis has escalated since a general strike began two weeks ago. Protesters have filled the streets daily, leaving the country paralyzed, stores emptied of goods and the situation dangerously volatile. Security forces firing at protesters have killed at least 14 and wounded many more.