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Monday, 18 February, 2002, 15:09 GMT
Analysis: Nepal reels from rebel attacks
A police headquarters after the rebel attacks
A police headquarters after the rebel attacks
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By Daniel Lak
BBC correspondent in Kathmandu
line

Nepal's Maoist rebels' worst attack in six years, in the remote district of Achham, came as two important religious holidays were being observed in the country.

Hindus, the majority community, were praying to the goddess Saraswati for the future of their children.

Most Nepalese Buddhists were still celebrating the festival of Lhosar, the Tibetan new year, a joyous time of parties and prayers for a good year.

Now it is safe to say that fear and uncertainty are overwhelming what should have been joyous occasions.

'Outrage'

There is, as yet, no broad agreement on what the Maoists hoped to achieve with their bloody and audacious raids in the far west.

The government and most of the Nepalese elite say the rebels are terrorists, pure and simple.

Dead policemen
The army is said to be very angry at the attacks

"We will reply in kind to this outrage," said a government official.

Home minister Khum Bahadur Khadka told news agencies that the plan was now to crush the rebels.

But human rights activists are not so sure.

Some think the Maoists are putting pressure on the government to force them back to the negotiating table.

Peace talks between the authorities and the rebels ended abruptly last November when the Maoist launched attacks across the country.

Prime Minster Sher Bahadur Deuba has said repeatedly since then that he was betrayed by the rebels.

Mr Deuba had long been in contact with the rebel leadership and came to power last July promising to end the insurgency through dialogue.

Party discontent

The groups most on the spot at the moment are the prime minister's political opponents, both in his own governing Nepali Congress party and the opposition Communists.


The attacks put far more pressure on political parties to get behind the army and the security forces, even if they disagree with the prime minister's leadership

Parliament is to vote this week on extending the state of emergency imposed last November to fight the rebels.

Before the Achham attacks, there had been rumblings of discontent within the Nepali Congress.

The prime minister was appealing to opposition members of parliament to support extending the emergency.

They were offering to do so in exchange for political concessions.

Now the attacks put far more pressure on political parties to get behind the army and the security forces, even if they disagree with the prime minister's leadership.

Disruptions in parliament on Monday by deputies demanding a statement from the prime minister may be the only options open to dissidents at the moment.

Devastating strikes

The army, it is said, is very angry and wants to reply to the Maoist attacks with strength and unity.

locator map

Analysts now say that three months of emergency powers and confrontation with the army have not diminished the rebels' ability to mount devastating and massive strikes.

They have been doing so almost since the beginning of their uprising and Achham was simply the most recent attack, albeit the worst.

"Machine guns, rockets, they used the army's own weapons, looted from an armoury in November," said a retired military officer, "and they used them with skill.

"That's frightening."

Experts agree that the Royal Nepal Army has the training and motivation to intensify its fight with the Maoists.

Military planners will have to wait and hope for the renewed commitment of Nepal's politicians and see what equipment and logistics help can be supplied from old friends like America and Britain.

At some point, poverty and underdevelopment in the countryside will also have to be addressed on a war footing.

Nepal's suffering people still have much to endure before they can view the future with optimism.

See also:

15 Feb 02 | South Asia
Nepal's communist opposition reunites
10 Feb 02 | South Asia
Nepal MPs hold key debate
Links to more South Asia stories are at the foot of the page.


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