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Saturday, 13 April, 2002, 05:57 GMT 06:57 UK
Nepal rebels kill dozens of police
Nepalese police post destroyed by rebels in February
Chances of a peace agreement now seem remote
Maoist rebels fighting Nepal's constitutional monarchy have attacked two key police posts in the west of the country, killing dozens of officers.

The raids in Dang district left at least 55 police officers and 12 rebels dead while six civilians were also killed in an attack on a bus, officials said.

The BBC's Daniel Lak in the capital Kathmandu says the casualty figure is likely to go up.

Both raids targeted the main east-west highway, one hitting a police station and the other a unit that guards a house belonging to the Interior Security Minister Khum Bahadur Khadka.

Our correspondent says the attacks will be particularly disturbing to the authorities as they appear to mark a return by the Maoists to targeting security forces.

Guerrilla tactics

The Maoists had recently concentrated on attacking electric power plants, local government offices and other parts of Nepal's infrastructure.

Maoist rebels in Nepal
The rebels are adept at surprise attacks in remote regions

But the latest attacks and the high number of casualties show they are still adept at using darkness and terrain to strike hard at security forces.

Thousands of rebels were involved, emerging at night from the thickly forested foothills of the Himalayas.

The interior security minister was not present when the rebels struck Satbariya, killing at least 35 policemen belonging to a special new unit set up specifically to combat the rebels.

Bad weather prevented the army sending in reinforcements by helicopter and some reports suggest that as many as 100 policemen actually died there.

In the nearby town of Lamahi, the rebels killed at least 13 police and attacked a bus, killing six passengers.

They also bombed two banks and the local electricity supply house, cutting power and communication in the area.

No mood to surrender

The Dang raids were the biggest since late February, when 34 policemen were killed in Sitalpati while, in all, about 3,000 people have died since the start of the rebels' war in 1996.

King Gyanendra
King Gyanendra has imposed a state of emergency

King Gyanendra imposed a state of emergency on 26 November and gave the army sweeping powers after the rebels withdrew from peace talks.

Now the conflict seems only to be getting worse.

European Union diplomats accused the rebels earlier this week of merely adding to poverty in the region.

Both sides admit dialogue is the only way to end the fighting, our correspondent says, but the government wants a Maoist surrender first.

As these latest attacks show, laying down arms seems to be the furthest thing from the minds of an emboldened rebel leadership.

The BBC's Daniel Lak
"Both sides admit that dialogue is the only way to end the fighting"
See also:

04 Apr 02 | South Asia
Nepal eases emergency rules
01 Apr 02 | South Asia
Maoist rebels call off Nepal strike
29 Mar 02 | South Asia
Bomb blasts rock Nepalese capital
25 Feb 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Nepal
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