Soldiers kill 11 Maoist rebels at Nepal school

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

KATMANDU, Nepal -- Soldiers stormed a high school that was taken over by Maoist rebels, battling for hours while terrified students hid behind desks, officials and witnesses said Tuesday. The army said 11 insurgents and four students were killed.

Five students were wounded in Monday's gunbattle, which lasted at least four hours, in the remote mountain village of Mutuhara, about 375 miles northeast of the capital, Katmandu.

An army official at the regional headquarters in Nepalgunj said the students were killed and wounded by a grenade set off by the rebels during the fighting. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said soldiers stormed the building after hearing the rebels had taken control of it, and there were no military casualties.

The five wounded students, who were taken to a hospital on army helicopters, were in stable condition.

One of the wounded students, 17-year-old Dambari Dika, said the rebels entered the school and forced the students into an assembly hall. The insurgents were planning to give a lecture there when soldiers stormed the building, she said.

"We were all scared. We told the rebels not to come inside the school, but they refused," Dika told The Associated Press from a hospital in Nepalgunj, about 310 miles west of Katmandu.

Dika said students were frightened and confused when the soldiers stormed the building, and that she did not know who killed her classmates. She took cover behind a desk, but was shot in the leg.

Her 13-year-old sister, Meena, died.

Fighting between the rebels and government troops has escalated since last week when a nine-day cease-fire imposed by the rebels during the Hindu Dasain festival expired.

Nearly 400 people have died since the rebels pulled out of peace talks and a seven-month cease-fire in August.

The rebels, who say they are inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, have been fighting since 1996 to abolish Nepal's constitutional monarchy and set up a communist state. The government has labeled them terrorists.

More than 7,400 people have been killed since the insurgency began.

On Tuesday, meanwhile, suspected rebels fatally shot a government employee in Katmandu. The man, who worked at the Central Wool and Carpet Development Board, was shot by two assailants who police believed were members of the rebel group.

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