By BINAJ GURUBACHARYA, Associated Press Writer Fri Feb 10, 3:47 PM ET
KATMANDU, Nepal - Communist rebels clashed with soldiers Friday in western Nepal, leaving seven people dead, as the royal government announced its mostly uncontested candidates swept discredited local elections that were boycotted by nearly every major political party.
The fighting came two days after voting in municipal polls, Nepal’s first elections in seven years, which also was marred by attacks by Maoist rebels fighting to create a socialist state. The decade-long insurgency has claimed about 12,000 lives.
Rebels hiding in a forest beside a key highway southwest of Katmandu ambushed an army convoy Friday night, killing two soldiers and a civilian and injuring 20 troops, Nepalese officials said.
Another 25 soldiers were missing, and the rebels said on their Web site that they were holding 10 soldiers hostage.
The insurgents said four of their fighters were killed and an unspecified number injured in the hours-long gunbattle that followed.
Nepal’s King Gyanendra seized power a year ago in this Himalayan nation of 27 million people, saying he needed to toss out an interim government to stamp out the rebellion and bring order to the country’s corrupt, chaotic politics. He promised to restore full democracy within three years and called Wednesday’s elections a first step.
The rebels launched repeated attacks during campaigning and threatened to kill anyone who took part in the elections. Two candidates were slain.
Six people were killed on election day, including a protester shot by soldiers.
Nearly every major political party boycotted the vote, calling it an attempt by the king to legitimize his power grab. They have called the low turnout of about 20 percent a victory.
The elections have been rejected by key international allies as deeply flawed because of the boycott, rebel attacks and threats and government intimidation.
Nepal’s Election Commission announced Friday that pro-government candidates had won most of the elections for mayors and local officials. Three pro-government parties won 17 mayoral posts while independent candidates, none of whom oppose the king, won 15.
The United States called the elections a "hollow attempt" to legitimize the king’s rule.