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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 January 2006, 09:37 GMT
Nepal police fire at protesters
Pro-democracy protestors clash with police in Kathmandu
There has been a wave of pro-democracy rallies in Nepal
Police in Nepal have opened fire at protesters at an anti-monarchy demonstration in the western town of Pokhara, injuring one man.

The violence came as a strike called by a seven-party alliance of opposition groups disrupted much of the country.

The BBC's Charles Haviland in the capital, Kathmandu, says it is rare for police to use live ammunition against civilian protesters.

The opposition are protesting against local elections due next month.

They say the polls are intended to legitimise the government of King Gyanendra who seized power in a coup nearly one year ago.


Our correspondent says the violence in Pokhara began when police started beating a group of opposition supporters demonstrating against the king's plans for local elections.

A Nepalese Maoist guerrilla woman holds a rifle while watching an armed exercise in Bhojpur, eastern Nepal
The rebels abandoned their truce earlier this month

The crowd were then joined by hundreds of students who threw stones and were met by tear gas, blank rounds and also about half a dozen live rounds.

A man of about 30 years of age was injured in his leg, but reports say the wound is not life threatening.

Our correspondent says that the use of live ammunition suggests that the authorities are worried that a current round of rallies against the monarch may become uncontrollable.

Around Nepal schools and businesses were closed on Thursday, with few vehicles on the road in the cities.

Riot police were widely deployed to try to prevent unrest.

King Gyanendra seized direct control of Nepal last year, saying the civilian government was proving unable to deal with Nepal's long-running Maoist insurgency.

His move prompted international concern.

Last November the Maoist rebels and the opposition political parties agreed on a common programme to end the king's rule.

'Can't function'

Thursday was the first day for candidates to file their nominations for the local elections.

King Gyanendra
The king seized power on 1 February, 2005

But the opposition says it will boycott the polls. The rebels have vowed to disrupt the elections.

"We want to show that the state can't function in an illegal manner," the AFP news agency quotes a spokesman of the country's main communist party, Pradeep Nepal, as saying.

Armed police have been patrolling the streets of the capital Kathmandu and the university campuses.

There have been several pro-democracy rallies in Kathmandu in recent days.

On Tuesday, police used batons and water canons to break up a protest by 2,000 demonstrators who shouted slogans against the king.

A week ago, Nepal banned rallies for a week and imposed night-time curfews. Mobile phone connections were also suspended.

Some of the restrictions have been lifted and several political detainees released.

Nepal has also witnessed increased violence between Maoist rebels and the Nepalese army since the rebels ended a four-month unilateral truce earlier this month.

More than 12,000 people have died in the decade since the Maoists began their campaign aimed at replacing the monarchy with a communist republic.

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