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Monday, 18 February, 2002, 07:41 GMT
Nepal ups security after rebel attacks
Maoist rebels
Rebels want to overthrow the constitutional monarchy
Nepal's cabinet has ordered security stepped up after more than 120 people were killed in two separate but simultaneous attacks by Maoist rebels on government installations in western Nepal.

The victims of the weekend raids on two towns in the remote district of Achham included police officers, soldiers and local government officials.

locator map
Local reports said there had also been casualties among the rebels, but this has yet to be officially confirmed.

The BBC's Daniel Lak, in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, says the scale and ferocity of the attacks go beyond anything the rebels have carried out previously in six years of conflict.

The Nepalese cabinet, meeting in emergency session, said new instructions had been given to security forces, but the brief announcement did not give details.

Gun battles

The rebels, who are seeking to overthrow Nepal's constitutional monarchy, mounted attacks on an airport, government buildings, a military barracks and an armoury. Buildings were blown up and banks looted.

Nepalese army soldiers
The government has taken new measures to tackle the insurgency

Gun battles between rebels and the security forces went on for many hours from midnight until well after dawn.

Smoke was seen drifting around the scene of the attacks for a long time afterwards.

The district's chief administrator, Mohan Singh Khadka, was reported to have been killed in the attacks.

The rebels appear to have been armed with modern weapons looted from the military during a previous attack.

State of emergency

The raids came as Nepal's parliament prepared to debate a request from the Prime Minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, to approve a three-month extension to the current state of emergency declared last November.

Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba
PM Deuba is facing dissent

The past three months have seen the army take over from the police in the battle against the rebels.

Our correspondent says Mr Deuba was facing dissent, even within his own party, but should be able to muster the needed two-thirds majority.

He adds that it is clear that the authorities will have to intensify their fight against the Maoists if civilians, particularly those in the countryside, are to feel safe again.

How they accomplish that is another matter. Nepal's economy is in tatters and the Maoists have proven themselves more than adept at using the country's rugged terrain to military advantage.

The Maoists have been fighting for a communist republic in Nepal since 1996, and the insurgency has claimed the lives of more than 2,000 people.

The BBC's Nick Hawton
"It had been thought the military had gained the upper hand over the rebels"
The BBC's Daniel Lak
"This is going to be a serious challenge for the government"
Press review
How Nepal's newspapers have reacted to the attacks
See also:

15 Feb 02 | South Asia
Nepal's communist opposition reunites
10 Feb 02 | South Asia
Nepal MPs hold key debate
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