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Suspected rebels bomb American information center in Nepal

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) _ Suspected communist rebels bombed the American information center in Nepal's capital Friday, damaging parts of the building but causing no injuries, police said.

It was the first time the rebels, who oppose U.S. support to the Nepalese government, have directly attacked an American government agency in Nepal.

During the attack, which occurred just minutes after the center closed for the weekend, assailants threw two bombs from the parking lot and fled, police said.

The explosion damaged parts of the building housing the auditorium and the education counseling section.

Soldiers cordoned off the area and searched the area.

Both Americans and Nepalese work at the center, which houses the offices of information, cultural and educational officials of the U.S. Embassy. The embassy is about three miles from the center.

The center is surrounded by a wall and has both private security guards and Nepalese policemen on duty, as well as metal detectors. Security had been stepped up recently in all American establishments in Nepal.

The United States has also issued several warnings for Americans to defer nonessential travel to Nepal, citing increased threats.

The United States is Nepal's biggest supporter in the fight against the rebels, who have been battling since 1996 to replace Nepal's monarchy with a communist state. The insurgency has claimed more than 10,000 lives.

Fighting between the rebels, who say they are inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, and government forces has escalated since the guerrillas ended a seven-month cease-fire in August 2003.

The rebels criticize Washington for giving Nepal millions of dollars in development and military aid, including small arms and training.

In 2002, two off-duty Nepalese security guards at the U.S. Embassy in Katmandu were shot to death, and the rebels claimed responsibility.
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