Nepal says 90 guerrillas killed in overnight fighting

Saturday, May 4, 2002

KATMANDU, Nepal -- Security forces killed at least 90 Maoist guerrillas in western Nepal overnight, the government said Friday, days before the prime minister visits Washington to seek help in fighting the rebels.

The fighting represented one of the largest death tolls since King Gyanendra imposed a state of emergency Nov. 26 and ordered the army to clamp down on the rebels after they withdrew from peace talks and attacked government troops and offices.

The rebels, who operate in more than half of this mountainous Himalayan kingdom of exquisite beauty and violent politics, want an end to the constitutional monarchy and sweeping reforms in land ownership. Their insurgency, inspired by Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong, has claimed more than 3,000 lives since it began in 1996.

Two army soldiers also were killed and another was wounded in the latest gunbattles with the rebels, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

At least 40 guerrillas were killed Thursday night during a gun battle with Nepalese army forces in Lisne, a village some 200 miles west of the capital, Katmandu, the statement said.

Elsewhere, security forces gunned down at least 50 guerrillas in the village of Bhagal, about 300 miles west of Katmandu, the ministry said.

The intensified fighting comes ahead of comes ahead of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba's visit to Washington next week. He is scheduled to meet with President Bush to discuss the insurgency.

The Bush administration recently asked Congress for $20 million in military aid for Nepal.

On Friday, Deuba rejected a reported offer by rebel leader Prachand to hold peace talks.

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