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Last Updated: Friday, 12 August 2005, 17:03 GMT 18:03 UK
Nepal complains about Indian guns
Brig Gen Dipak Gurong
Dipak Gurong said the weapons malfunctioned in the battle
The Nepalese army has said that faulty Indian rifles may have been partly to blame for its high death toll during fighting with Maoist rebels.

At least 50 security personnel were killed during a fierce battle on Sunday in the remote western province of Kalikot.

A spokesman for the army said that Indian-manufactured assault rifles had malfunctioned.

The Indian government has so far not commented on the allegations.

The Maoist insurgency in Nepal has intensified in recent months.

India is an important military supplier to Nepal, but suspended arms supplies after King Gyanendra seized power in February.

Earlier problems

"Soldiers complained that the Insas rifles did not function properly during the fighting, which lasted for a long time," army spokesman Brig Gen Dipak Gurong told a press conference, in response to a question from an Indian journalist.

"Maybe the weapons we were using were not designed for a long fight. They malfunctioned," he said.

"There were stoppages during the firing... the rifles got hot and soldiers had to wait for them to cool," another officer told Reuters.

Problems with the Insas (Indian Small Arms System) rifles have been reported before.

An Indian inquiry in 2001 cited problems with the rifle including a tendency "to 'cold arrest' in sub-zero temperatures", the defence journal Jane's Infantry Weapons reported last year.

The Indian army suspended deliveries of Insas rifles to its front line units in 2002 because of unspecified "problems", according to the publication.

Missing men

The Nepalese army is still searching for 70 soldiers, reported missing after Sunday's fighting.

The soldiers were posted at a temporary security base in a remote district 600km west of Kathmandu where government forces have been guarding construction workers building the new Karnali highway.

Twenty-six Maoist rebels were also killed during the fighting.

More than 11,000 people have been killed during the nine-year Maoist insurgency, which aims to replace Nepal's monarchy with a communist republic.

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