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Wednesday, 6 February, 2002, 11:27 GMT
Explosion near Everest airport
Soldiers carrying an injured
The rebels killed 16 police officers on Tuesday
By the BBC's Sushil Sharma in Kathmandu

Reports from Nepal say there has been a small explosion at Lukla airport, in the Everest region.

The explosion is widely believed to have been caused by a bomb planted by Maoist rebels who have stepped up attacks in recent days.

More than 2,500 people have died since the Maoist rebels launched an armed struggle six years ago aimed at replacing the constitutional monarchy with a communist republic.

A state of emergency has been in place since November to clear the way for a military campaign aimed at crushing the rebellion.

Tourist destination

The authorities said on Wednesday that the explosion at Lukla airport occurred on Monday night. No major damage or injury has been reported. Two days earlier there was a similar explosion at the airport.

Soldiers on patrol
It is hard to get independent reports of the security operation
Lukla is considered the gateway to Mount Everest, the world's highest peak and a popular tourist destination.

The authorities say security has been tightened in the area.

There has been an escalation in Maoist attacks in recent days.

On Tuesday, the rebels killed 16 police officers in the northern Kavrepalanchok district - their biggest attack since the imposition of the state of emergency.

At least six rebels are also believed to have been killed.

The authorities also say 19 rebels have died in separate clashes with the security forces across the country over the past two days.

Several others are also reported to have been killed, although there has been no official or independent confirmation.

See also:

04 Feb 02 | South Asia
Nepal asks for more aid
18 Jan 02 | South Asia
US pledges support to Nepal
17 Jan 02 | South Asia
New taxes to fund Nepal offensive
16 Jan 02 | South Asia
Rebels escape from Nepal jail
10 Jan 02 | South Asia
Nepal targets rebel finances
24 Dec 01 | South Asia
'Thousands surrender' in Nepal
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