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Last Updated: Friday, 15 April, 2005, 12:07 GMT 13:07 UK
Nepal schools shut after threat
By Sushil Sharma
BBC News, Kathmandu

Maoists in Nepal
The rebels have been fighting for a republic since 1996
A number of private schools in western Nepal have shut down following threats from Maoist rebels.

Dozens of schools in the south-western town of Butwal and its neighbouring areas were due to re-open on Friday after a long holiday.

But school authorities said they had been forced to keep the institutions closed because of the rebel warning.

They said Maoist rebels had threatened to bomb the schools if they defied a call to stay closed.

UN call

The Maoist rebels' student wing, the All Nepal National Free Students' Union (ANNFSU), had given a similar warning to schools across the country.

But in many areas, including the capital, Kathmandu, schools are still on annual vacation.

It is not clear how they will respond to the rebel threat once the vacation ends, although some have said that they will defy it.

Earlier, a number of school groups, human rights activists and professional groups urged the rebels to withdraw the shut-down call which, they said, would affect the future of a million-and-a-half students.

The United Nations has also called for schools to be kept free from the armed conflict. The rebel student group has not responded yet.

'Too expensive'

It says the private schools are motivated by profit, and that many students cannot afford to gain admission in such schools.

The ANNFSU has also been calling for the release of its members detained by the government.

The Maoists have been pressing for a constituent assembly to draw up a new constitution that, the rebels believe, will clear the way for replacing the monarchy with a communist republic.

The rebels have been waging an armed struggle in Nepal since 1996. Eleven thousand people have died in the conflict since then.

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