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Last Updated: Friday, 20 August, 2004, 10:31 GMT 11:31 UK
Kathmandu hit by 'rebel' blasts
A Nepalese solider mans a checkpoint 26km (16 miles) south-west of Kathmandu
Police are watching over virtually deserted roads around Kathmandu
Suspected Maoist rebels in Nepal have set off two bombs in Kathmandu, on the third day of a blockade of the capital.

Two people were hurt, one a policeman who was shot at. Traffic in and out of Kathmandu has slightly risen but goods are getting scarcer, authorities say.

Business leaders are urging an immediate ceasefire and peace talks. A number of top firms have closed after rebel threats.

The rebels want detained comrades freed and the killing of others investigated.

Police in Kathmandu say suspected rebels first shot at a policeman guarding a government building in the capital, before entering the building and planting one bomb.

Another device was detonated at an empty police checkpoint on the outskirts of the city. No-one was hurt in that attack.

Business appeal

The rebel-enforced blockade of Kathmandu has led to petrol rationing and a rise in food prices.

There have been no reports of the Maoists preventing vehicles from travelling on the two major roads linking Kathmandu with the rest of the country, but fear of reprisals has kept most drivers off the roads.

The president of the Federation of the Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry said businesses were beginning to feel the pinch.

Nepal's Maoist rebels

Several industries faced closure because of the indefinite blockade, Binod Bahadur Shrestha told the BBC.

Eleven large businesses including a luxury hotel in Kathmandu have been shut down since Tuesday after the rebels threatened to target them.

The authorities said there was slightly more transport to and from Kathmandu on Friday compared with the first two days of the blockade.

An army official at the busiest entry and exit point, Nag Dhunga, said traffic was still below a quarter of its usual level. Most vehicles were passenger buses, he said.

The BBC's Navin Singh Khadka says the lack of lorries carrying vegetables and other fresh products into the capital has fuelled public fears that consumer goods will get scarcer and pricier.

Atrocities

The Maoist rebels have been engaged in an armed struggle since 1996 to replace the monarchy with a communist republic.

About 9,000 people have died in violence between the rebels and security forces since then.

Amnesty International says atrocities have been committed on both sides of the conflict.

Peace talks fell through last year after Kathmandu rejected a rebel demand for an assembly to draft a new constitution and decide the future of the monarchy.

Analysts say the rebels are blockading the capital to step up the pressure on the government to resume peace talks on their terms.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Charles Haviland
"The attacks are being blamed on Maoist guerrillas"



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