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Friday, 13 July, 2001, 16:27 GMT 17:27 UK
Nepal army clashes with Maoists
Nepalese rebels
Rebels have increased their attacks in recent weeks
The Nepalese army is reported to have clashed with Maoist rebels on Friday, as the search intensified for up to 70 policemen believed to have been abducted by the rebels the previous day.

This is the first time the army has been used to reinforce police operations against the Maoists.

Several rebels were reported to have been killed in the action, which took place in the western Nepalese district of Rolpa.


The prime minister did not agree to my suggestion on how to resolve the (Maoist) problem nor did he provide any solution.

Ram Chandra Poudel
An army helicopter pilot and two others soldiers were reported to have been injured when their helicopter was shot down.

The involvement of an army helicopter appeared to confirm newspaper reports, which government officials refused to confirm, that the army has been dispatched to help in the search.

The BBC's Sushil Sharma in Kathmandu says the army is much better trained and equipped than the police.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Ram Chandra Poudel has resigned.

Mr Poudel told parliament that there were differences between him and Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala over how best to deal with the revolt.

He was reported to have advised Mr Koirala to accept opposition demands to step down to allow the ruling Nepali Congress party and the opposition to form a joint front to deal with the rebels.

Growing pressure

Our correspondent says the resignation of Mr Poudel poses no immediate threat to the prime minister.

Maoist graffiti in Nepal
The rebels are fighting for a "people's republic"
Dissident members of his party and the opposition do not have enough votes in parliament to remove him.

However, the resignation could increase the pressure on Mr Koirala at a time when he is facing allegations of corruption and inefficiency.

Rebel attack

The policemen have been missing since a rebel attack on a police station in the north-west of the country on Thursday, in which one policeman was killed and another seriously injured.

About 300 rebels are reported to have been involved in a prolonged gun battle at the Holery police post.

An interior ministry spokesman told the AFP news agency that police reinforcements had already reached the site of the attack in Rolpa district.

Post-massacre onslaught

The Maoists have stepped up attacks on the police in the wake of last month's massacre of most of the royal family.

Crown Prince Dipendra
Crown Prince Dipendra was officially blamed for the royal massacre
Although an official report said the massacre was the work of the former king's son, the rebels insist it was the result of a national and international conspiracy.

Many Nepalese still refuse to believe the official version of the tragedy.

But correspondents say few support the Maoist violence.

At least 15 bombs have been planted in and around Kathmandu in the past few weeks, of which six have exploded.

Rebels have targeted Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's home and official residence, along with the home of his daughter.

The rebels are fighting to establish a "people's republic" in Nepal and are demanding land reform, an end to close ties with India, no more foreign aid and no role for the monarchy.

See also:

07 Jul 01 | South Asia
Nepal rebels step up attacks
14 May 01 | South Asia
Nepal's growing rural revolt
04 Jul 01 | South Asia
Nepal's Maoists on the move
29 Jun 01 | South Asia
Nepal king backs democracy
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