Legislators demand Nepalese government's resignation

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

KATMANDU, Nepal -- In a session marked by scuffles and noisy recriminations, Nepalese legislators on Monday said the government should resign because it ignored repeated calls for help in advance of a rebel attack that killed 137 people.

In the aftermath of the deadliest assault in Nepal's 6-year war, lawmakers knocked down a podium, tussled with guards and shouted for the government's resignation; they took no action on Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba's request to extend a state of emergency.

Deuba said he needed the extension to keep up the fight against rebels trying to topple the Himalayan kingdom's constitutional monarchy and install a communist government.

The guerrillas, who draw their inspiration from Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Tse-tung, attacked government offices and a small airport in Achham on Sunday, killing 77 policemen, 55 soldiers, an intelligence officer and four civilians.

The rebels broke off peace talks and renewed attacks Nov. 26, prompting the imposition of the state of emergency, which is up for renewal. Also, King Gyanendra ordered the army to fight the rebels, a task left previously to the overmatched police force. Deuba said the state of emergency was showing results.

"The situation in country has gotten better since the emergency was imposed and such a task takes time. So it is our compulsion to continue mobilization of the security forces," Deuba told Parliament.

The Parliament melee started when a member of the governing Nepali Congress party, representing the town of Mangalsen where the main attack took place, said the government ignored warnings that violence was coming. Another attack took place at the airport in the nearby town of Sanphebaga.

"Representatives and government officials from the area had warned the government about the possible attack. But it was ignored," Ram Bahadur Bista said.

Chief District Officer Mohan Singh Khadka, the area's administrative chief, wrote several letters to the government seeking additional security forces, Bista said. Khadka died in the attack.

"The government has failed to provide security and prevent the attack, despite having information about the possible assault. It has now lost all moral ground to continue in power," said Pradeep Nepal of the main opposition United Marxist Leninist Communist Party of Nepal.

Deuba said the army has sent reinforcements by helicopter to the Achham district, 375 miles northwest of the capital Katmandu. He said the military had taken control of the area and people were beginning to come out of their homes.

The emergency measures restrict freedom of the press, assembly, expression and movement and allow suspects to be detained for three weeks without charge.

Deuba raised the death toll to 137 from 129, adding a policeman and seven soldiers to the casualty list.

The attacks came as the impoverished Himalayan nation was still coming to terms with the June palace massacre of King Birendra and eight other royals by Crown Prince Dipendra, who then shot himself. Nepal is a constitutional monarchy.

Earlier this month, the U.S. State Department issued an advisory to warn Americans about travel in Nepal after the guerrillas staged attacks near popular tourist destinations, including the main entry point for the Mount Everest trek. The latest attacks were not near tourist sites.

More than 2,400 people have died in fighting since 1996.

The rebels have called a general strike Friday and Saturday to commemorate the sixth anniversary of their insurgency.

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