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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 September, 2004, 17:23 GMT 18:23 UK
Nepal hit by Maoist rebel strike
Maoist rebels
The Maoists are demanding the release of two leaders
Vehicles stayed off the roads and schools and businesses were shut in Nepal on Tuesday in response to a strike called by the country's Maoists.

The two-day strike to protest against the killing of two rebel leaders affected life in the capital, Kathmandu, and eastern Nepal.

Security forces were on high alert, guarding government buildings.

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

The authorities say at least nine Maoist rebels were killed on Tuesday in various confrontations around the country.

The BBC's Sushil Sharma in Kathmandu says that government and private offices were open, but the attendance was low.

The Nepalese government urged the public to defy the strike call and promised to compensate for any damage to vehicles and property by the rebels.

Fear of reprisals

Correspondents say strikes called by the Maoists are generally observed out of fear of attacks from rebels.

"I am closed because you never know who takes down your (licence plate) number today, and attacks later," taxi driver Roshan Dahal told Reuters.

"I can't take the risk," he said.

The BBC's correspondent says the rebels torched a number of vehicles and set off explosions in government and private offices over the past few days.

No one was injured in these attacks.

Last week, the rebels rejected a new appeal by the Nepalese prime minister for talks to end their insurgency.

Earlier this month, nearly 50 businesses shut down by the rebels re-opened - many of them after a month - after the government agreed to release two Maoist trade union leaders.

More than 9,000 people have lost their lives in the violent campaign that the Maoists have waged for the last nine years to try and replace Nepal's monarchy with a communist republic.


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