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Last Updated: Monday, 16 May, 2005, 08:47 GMT 09:47 UK
'Dozens of Nepal rebels killed'
Dozens of Maoist rebels in Nepal have been killed in clashes with government troops in the eastern hill district of Sindhuli, officials say.

Two soldiers are also said to have died and four others wounded.

Military officials say more than 50 rebels may have died but this cannot be independently confirmed and there has been no word from the Maoists.

In the past, the rebels have accused the government of exaggerating Maoist losses while hiding its own.

Student search

The latest clash occurred at a remote village when government troops reportedly came across a large number of rebels.

King Gyanendra
The king says he took direct power to tackle the Maoists

The rebels were said to be returning from neighbouring Sirha district where they suffered heavy casualties following a major clash last week.

Clashes have increased since King Gyanendra assumed direct control of the country in February, saying politicians had failed to tackle the insurgency.

About 12,000 people have died in the 10-year Maoist campaign which is aimed at replacing the monarchy with a communist republic.

On Monday, troops were still searching for students kidnapped by Maoist rebels in the west of the country.

The soldiers freed about 600 students who had been abducted on Friday from classrooms in villages in Tahanu and Palpa districts, about 300km (190 miles) west of Kathmandu.

Local official Gopalraj Timilsina told Associated Press it was unclear how many students were still being held but it could be in the hundreds.

In the past, students taken for what the rebels call indoctrination classes have been freed within in a few days.

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