By BINAJ GURUBACHARYA, Associated Press Writer Wed Jan 25, 5:11 AM ET
KATMANDU, Nepal - Communist rebels fighting to topple Nepal’s monarchy staged a major assault on a western border town that left at least eight people dead, but security forces repulsed the insurgents, officials said Wednesday.
Two policemen, an army soldier, four rebels and a civilian were killed in the large-scale, coordinated attacks Tuesday night on key security installations at Nepalgunj, near the border with India.
The rebels hurled grenades and fired automatic weapons at police stations and the city jail, said Binod Kumar Adhikari, chief government official in the area. He added that troops had regained control of the area.
Five policemen were also wounded in the attacks, one of them seriously, Adhikari said.
Officials said the bodies of four insurgents had been recovered and witnesses saw other bodies being carried away by rebel forces.
Rebels abandoned a four-month unilateral cease-fire on Jan. 2 and intensified attacks in the area. Security has been stepped up and police stations reinforced with army soldiers and more firepower.
Officials said the heightened alert helped security forces repel the rebels, keeping casualties to a minimum.
The attacks follow a government crackdown over the weekend on pro-democracy activists in which several top dissidents were briefly placed under house arrest and hundreds of protesters were detained.
The activists want King Gyanendra to step down as absolute ruler, a position he assumed after seizing control of the government in February 2005.
Gyanendra has promised to crush a communist insurgency and halt political corruption.
The rebels have said they will disrupt government plans to hold municipal elections next month. Claiming to be inspired by Chinese revolutionary Mao Zedong, they began fighting in 1996 to replace the constitutional monarchy with a socialist state. The insurgency has claimed about 12,000 lives.
There have been several attacks in Nepalgunj in the past, but Tuesday’s was the first large-scale assault on the town, home to the regional command center of both the police and the army.