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Last Updated: Monday, 17 April 2006, 13:45 GMT 14:45 UK
Fifth Nepal protester 'shot dead'
Kathmandu shop
Opposition activists ask a shop in Kathmandu to close
Security forces in Nepal are reported to have shot dead a fifth anti-monarchy protester as an opposition general strike enters its 12th day.

Witnesses said troops opened fire on protesters in the town of Nijgadh, 200km (125 miles) south of Kathmandu.

Meanwhile the army has been deployed to ensure food reaches the capital.

Nepal is experiencing food shortages and price rises because of the strike called by the opposition which has led protests against King Gyanendra.

We will provide armed escorts to trucks transporting essential goods to Kathmandu
Dipendra Thapa
Ministry of works and transport

The strike coincides with an intensive campaign of anti-royal demonstrations around the country.

Opposition parties have ordered shops and businesses, schools, colleges and motor transport to cease operations.

Reports from eastern Nepal say there are shortages of rice as mills close and people resort to panic buying.

Rush for goods

In the capital, Kathmandu, people are queuing for hours to buy petrol from the few pumps still open.

"Petrol supply has completely stopped," Harendra Bahadur Shreshtha, the head of a private consumers' forum, is quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

Delivery trucks have been obstructed, resulting in price rises for staples like rice and vegetables.

Reports say vegetable markets across the country were crowded as people rushed to stock up.

Separately, the government said it would offer security to truckers and incentives to those who defy the strike.

"We will provide armed escorts to trucks transporting essential goods to Kathmandu," Dipendra Thapa, secretary at the ministry of works and transport, told the Associated Press news agency.

Clashes with police

On Monday, staff of Nepal's Supreme Court joined the protest against the king.

The BBC's Sushil Sharma in Kathmandu says the last time Supreme Court staff joined such a protest was in 1990, when the then monarch, King Birendra, was forced to give up absolute power and restore democracy.

The parties, which the king sacked from government last year, say the shutdown will continue and are now calling on people to withhold all tax and bill payments until what they call democratic government is ushered in.

People around the country demonstrated against the monarch on Sunday.

In one western town, scores were reported injured in police firing.

In Kathmandu, a crowd of 10,000 threw stones when attempts were made to stop them advancing. Police responded with rubber bullets, injuring several.

The king says he needs direct powers to tackle the Maoist insurgency, but rebel violence has increased under his rule.





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