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Last Updated: Saturday, 9 April, 2005, 17:22 GMT 18:22 UK
Nepal clash deaths 'rise to 100'
Nepalese soldier
Nepal's army says it was responding to a rebel raid on a base
Authorities in Nepal now say 100 died in clashes between Maoist rebels and government forces in the remote western district of Rukum on Thursday.

The clashes were by far the biggest since King Gyanendra assumed direct power on 1 February, vowing to crack down on the rebels.

The army said it had recovered 97 rebel bodies and that three soldiers died.

The rebels have not commented on their dead but say the army's losses were much higher.

None of the claims could be independently verified.

The Maoists have been fighting for nearly 10 years to replace the monarchy with a communist republic. About 11,000 people have been killed.

Maoist strike

Security forces said on Saturday a further 47 Maoist bodies had been found since the Rukum clash, adding to the 50 recovered on Friday.

Rukum is a rebel stronghold about 550km (340 miles) west of Kathmandu.

"Some bodies were buried while others were abandoned in the forests and by the side of streams," an army official told the Reuters agency.

The army said about six soldiers were hurt in addition to its three dead when the rebels attacked an army base with rocket launchers and mortars.

The clash was the first major battle since the king dismissed the government, saying it had failed to tackle the Maoist threat.

The battle also came amid an 11-day strike, which will end on Tuesday, called by the rebels to protest at the king's move.

Bus attack

Police said on Saturday that three people died and dozens were hurt when a bus travelling to Kathmandu on Saturday hit a mine.

Security officials blamed Maoists for setting off a landmine that struck a bus travelling to Kathmandu from the southern district of Rautahat on Saturday.

Police said an Indian citizen was among the dead.

They also said a second explosion had gone off, injuring two Russian nationals.

They were heading to the base of Mount Everest when their vehicle hit a landmine north-east of Kathmandu, police said.

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