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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 February 2006, 10:22 GMT
'Three die' in Nepal rebel attack
Three soldiers have been killed in fresh clashes with Maoist rebels in western Nepal, army officials say.

Fighting took place early on Wednesday when rebels reportedly attacked an army convoy in Palpa district.

An army official told the BBC that the rebels had suffered heavy casualties. The rebels have not commented yet.

The deaths follow controversial local elections last week in which only about 20% of voters cast ballots amid an opposition boycott and rebel threats.

Wednesday's clash is said to have lasted for several hours.

The rebels have launched major attacks in Palpa and neighbouring Nawalparasi district over the past two weeks, leaving scores of soldiers, police and rebels dead.

Elections

Violence has escalated across Nepal after the rebels called off a four-month unilateral ceasefire last month.

The government refused to tell soldiers to cease fire, saying it did not trust the rebels.

The rebels ordered a nationwide shutdown to disrupt the municipal elections, which King Gyanendra says will precede parliamentary elections next year.

The opposition and the rebels said the local elections were a sham to entrench the power of the king, who seized direct power in 2005.

Some 13,000 people have died in the 10-year-old Maoist insurgency.

Top Maoist leader Prachanda told the BBC, in an interview broadcast on Monday, that the only future he saw for the king was exile or trial, possibly leading to execution.


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