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Last Updated: Monday, 27 October, 2003, 09:43 GMT
Maoists 'sorry' UK officer held
By Sushil Sharma
BBC correspondent in Kathmandu

Soldiers stand guard at a Kathmandu junction
The army has been fighting the rebels for almost eight years
Maoist rebels in Nepal have expressed regret at the abduction last week of a British army officer.

Their leader, Prachanda, said an investigation was under way into what he called a violation of rebel policy.

His comments came a week after the officer and Nepalese members of a Gurkha recruitment team went missing in the north-west of the country.

They were freed unharmed two days later. The rebels' fight for a communist republic has left 8,000 dead.

'Surprised'

In an interview with a Maoist-run online news service, the chairman of the Maoist communist party said he had been surprised to hear reports that British army team members had been abducted.

When we learnt about the abductions, we ordered their immediate release
Rebel leader Prachanda
Prachanda said orders had been issued to free them immediately and to prevent such incidents happening in future.

Lieutenant-Colonel Adrian Griffith and six Nepalese nationals were freed almost 48 hours after they were abducted in the remote hill village of Lekhani in Baglung district.

The British officer and others had been visiting the area to observe the recruitment of Gurkha soldiers for the British army.

Prachanda said rebel policy did not allow foreign nationals to be targeted.

US role

He stressed that the policy also applied to American tourists and officials, but said that security personnel helping the Nepalese army would not be spared.

The United States has been providing arms and training to the Nepalese army which stepped up its offensive after the rebels broke a seven-month truce in August.

Abductions, extortion and killings have escalated since then, bringing the number killed in eight years of conflict to 8,000.

The rebels have been fighting to replace the monarchy with a communist republic.


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