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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 December, 2004, 14:06 GMT
Bloodshed rises in western Nepal
Soldiers in Nepal
Violence has risen since talks collapsed last year
Nepalese security forces have killed 23 Maoist rebels in two clashes in the west of the country, the military says.

Six security personnel were injured in one of the incidents.

On Wednesday, 20 police and soldiers died in a rebel ambush, the biggest loss by the security forces in months. Six rebels also died, the army said.

Extra forces have gone to Arghakhanchi in western Nepal following the ambush. Bloodshed has risen since peace talks collapsed last year.

Wednesday's fighting came as a European Union delegation urged the Maoists to enter peace talks and abandon violence.

Arms seized

In the latest clashes, military authorities say that 17 rebels were killed in Dailekh district in the west of Nepal.

They say a large number of arms and ammunition were also seized. No further details are available.

In a separate incident, the security forces say they killed six rebels while foiling an overnight attack on a telephone exchange in another western district, Lamjung. Six security personnel were injured.

The government says that dozens of rebels may have died in the different outbreaks of fighting, but the rebels deny the claim.

Correspondents say details are difficult to verify since the fighting was in a remote area.

Security officials say ground and aerial support have been sent out to remote Arghakhanchi district to search for any rebels who may have survived Wednesday's clashes.

The army said it recovered the bodies of six rebels.

About 10,000 people have died in the conflict in Nepal since the Maoists began their fight to replace the monarchy with a communist republic in 1995.

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