Nepal's King Gyanendra cracks down on protests; 3 dead

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Friday, April 21, 2006

Nepal's King Gyanendra deployed lethal force against protestors in Kathmandu on Thursday as a general strike and pro-democracy protest spread through Nepal threatening the future of the monarchy.

Government forces fired on protesters in the Kathmandu neighborhood of Kalanki, killing three people and injuring more than 100, according to officials at two city hospitals. Two of those killed appeared to have been shot in the head by live bullets.

Kathmandu was under a curfew from 2 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time on April 20. Non-governmental organizations such as the United Nations and the Red Cross were denied permission to move through the city during the curfew, and journalists were also denied curfew passes. The United Nations Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights called the move a "clear violation" of their agreement with the Nepali government.

The curfew was reportedly extended until 3 a.m. local time Friday. Protestors intend to continue protests on Friday.

Gyanendra assumed direct rule in February 2005, citing the failure of political parties to control a Maoist insurgency that has killed 13,000 people. He has pledged free elections by April 2007, but an alliance of political parties has demanded he relinquish power to an all-party government immediately.

The protests have touched all areas of Nepalese society. As an example, a peaceful protest meeting called by the Nepal Bar Association was fired upon by Nepalese police on April 13, 2006. About 1500 people took part in the protest which took place at Babarmahal in Kathmandu. 50 were reportedly injured in the firing. Nepal Bar Association President Shambu Thampa was one of the casualties. It is not clear at this time whether the police used rubber, or live bullets. After the protest, tear gas shells were used to disperse the crowd. The authorities reportedly detained 72 people.

Later that day, around 100 people were arrested at a rally in a stadium at Maitighar. Most of those detained were associated with the Association of International NGOs (AIN).

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