Two die in police battle with Nepal rebels

KATHMANDU (AFP) – A market gunbattle yesterday between police and Maoist rebels left two dead and highlighted a simmering showdown between Nepal’s government and hard-core opponents, officials said.

A police constable and a member of the banned Party of Nepal died from wounds suffered in the shootout in Bhojpur district, 180 kilometres from Kathmandu, said District Chief Officer Nurhari Khatiwada.

He told AFP the Maoists had opened fire on police patrolling the market.

Police said that they have recovered a pistol and bullets from the area.

Nepal has enjoyed relative calm since the 2006 end of a decade-long civil war in 2006 which saw the rebels give up their arms and join mainstream politics.

But some former guerrillas formed the Communist Party of Nepal, accusing their former leaders of betraying their revolutionary cause.

The group was banned after it was implicated in an explosion in February that killed one person outside the Kathmandu office of a telecoms company.

In May, four party cadres were killed in three explosions in the capital as they were preparing bombs for a general strike.

The same month, police shot a group member in a clash, but human rights activists and opposition parties have questioned the police claim.