Maoist rebels have killed at least five policemen and freed more than 60 prisoners in an attack in eastern Nepal, authorities say.
Two rebels were also killed in the fighting that followed the attack in the eastern hill district of Khotang.
Officials said the rebels broke into a jail and allowed inmates to escape.
The attack came hours after the Maoists called a halt to attacks on civilians and offered to join political parties opposing the rule of King Gyanendra.
Hundreds of rebels are said to have been involved in the attack on the isolated eastern town of Diktel, the capital of the hill district of Khotang.
The army said that two rebels had been killed in the fighting.
Show of strength
The rebels torched several government offices and broke into a jail, enabling the prisoners to escape, authorities said.
None of the prisoners are said to be Maoist cadres.
An army official said that the rebel attacks had been repulsed.
But a local rebel leader said that security forces had suffered heavy losses - rebel sources claim they have captured 11 policemen.
The Maoists have been fighting a 10-year insurgency
The BBC's Charles Haviland in Kathmandu says the attack appears to have been intended as a show of strength by the rebels, but was smaller than similar raids in the past.
The attack came hours after the rebels said cadres had been ordered not to carry out "physical attacks on unarmed people".
King Gyanendra assumed direct control of Nepal on 1 February, dismissing parliament and accusing politicians of failing to tackle the Maoists.
Violence between the rebels and security forces has escalated in recent months, raising the number of those killed in the 10-year-old Maoist insurgency to more than 12,000.
The rebels say they want to replace the monarchy with a communist republic.