Nepal king declares state of emergency; suspends civil liberties, allows army to pursue rebels

Monday, November 26th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) _ Nepal's king declared a state of emergency Monday after weekend attacks by rebels killed at least 76 soldiers and police, the palace said.

King Gyanendra's decree suspends civil liberties and allows the government to send soldiers after the rebels for the first time since the Maoists launched their insurgency in 1996.

Previously, the military was limited to defending Nepal from foreign attack. Until now, police were used against the rebels, who are fighting to abolish the monarchy and to establish a socialist state.

The king's declaration comes in the wake of an attack Sunday night that killed five soldiers, 28 police officers and the chief district officer in Solukhumbu, 125 miles north of Katmandu, Interior Security Minister Khum Bahadur Khadka said.

The rebels also suffered heavy casualties, Khadka said.

A total of 76 soldiers, police and government officials have been killed since Friday, when rebels broke off a four-month cease-fire and launched assaults across the Himalayan kingdom.

Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba's Cabinet decided Monday to seek a state of emergency, Water Resources Minister Bijaya Gachchedar said.

Airports and borders will remain open and government offices will function as normal but security will be tightened across the nation, Khadka said.

The emergency measures restrict freedom of the press, as well as freedom of assembly, expression and movement. Suspects can be detained for three weeks without charges, the palace said.

The military and the armed police were being mobilized to comb rebel hide-outs, concentrated mostly in the remote hills of midwest Nepal.

The Maoist guerrillas fashion themselves after Peru's Shining Path guerrillas and draw their name from China's revolutionary communist leader Mao Tse-tung.

The rebels are seeking an end to the constitutional monarchy and the creation of a socialist republic. Their six-year insurgency has claimed more than 1,800 lives.