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Monday, 26 November, 2001, 22:38 GMT
Nepal emergency declared
Nepal security forces
The government is expected to boost its security forces
King Gyanendra of Nepal has declared a state of emergency after the worst violence the country has seen since a Maoist revolt began six years ago.

Clashes in the Mount Everest region of Nepal that started on Sunday night have left more than 100 dead, most of them rebels, the government says.

A BBC correspondent in the region says Nepal is in serious danger of descending into outright civil war.

More than 1,850 people have been killed during the Maoist insurgency.

The rebels called off their ceasefire last week, saying the government was blocking peace talks.

Civilians dead

Late on Sunday hundreds of rebels attacked government targets near Mount Everest in the Solukhumbu district of Nepal, the government says.

We have decided to recommend to his Majesty the King to impose a state of emergency

Bijay Kumar Gachhadar
Water Resources Minister
The precise number killed in the latest clashes is not clear.

The government says that after five hours of fighting the rebels were repulsed.

Reports speak of more than 150 rebels killed as well as several members of the security forces and some civilians.

The chief district officer of Solukhumbu district is among those killed.

"All the communications channels with the northeastern troubled Solukhumbu district are cut off, therefore it is getting difficult to access the situation and the casualty figures," the AFP news agency quotes a home ministry spokesman as saying.

On Friday the rebels carried out one of their heaviest attacks, killing more than 40 members of the security forces in the west of the country.

It was also the first time the rebels had attacked the Royal Nepalese Army, rather than the police.

State of emergency

The emergency gives the government the power to curtail the press and restrict rights of assembly.

Women mourners
The insurgency has claimed more than 1,850 lives so far
The police and army will also have much wider powers to deal with the rebels.

The Nepalese authorities have also asked the government in the Indian state of West Bengal to step up security to stop rebels crossing the border to seek shelter.

Civil liberty groups say that the new law and proposed anti-terrorist legislation pose the biggest threat to freedom in Nepal since democracy was reintroduced 10 years ago.

Ministers insist that the new laws will only be used to curb Maoist activities.

The escalation of fighting is likely to do serious damage to Nepal's tourist industry.

Tourism, an important foreign exchange earner, is usually at its peak around this time of the year.

Government 'blocking peace talks'

The senior rebel leader, Prachanda, said the decision to end the ceasefire had been taken because the government was blocking peace talks aimed at ending the conflict.

The government denies this, and accuses the rebels of running away from dialogue.

Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba came to power in July promising to end the insurgency.

The two sides held their first substantive peace talks in August, but these stalled two weeks ago over a rebel demand for elections for a constituent assembly to pave the way for a new constitution.

Correspondents says the renewed attacks may indicate that a split has developed between hawks and doves in the rebel ranks.

The Maoists stepped up their attacks after the massacre of the royal family on 1 June - apparently by a family member.

The BBC's Rita Payne
"The prospects for peace in Nepal seem to be more distant than ever"
Leading Nepalese commentator, C K Lal
"The talks are going round in circles"
See also:

25 Nov 01 | South Asia
Nepal's Maoist insurgency reignites
23 Nov 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Maoist threat to Nepal peace
28 Jul 01 | South Asia
Nepal Maoists tell of world plans
14 May 01 | South Asia
Nepal's growing rural revolt
19 Jul 01 | South Asia
Timeline: Nepal
30 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Nepal
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