Nepal Police Leave Posts, Stay Home After Six Officers Killed
KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) _ Hundreds of policemen deserted their posts or stayed home today after anti- monarchist mobs beat to death six of their colleagues in daylong rioting, government sources said.
At least three police stations in the capital were seen to be empty. Almost none of the capital’s 4,000 policemen were walking the streets.
A few armed policemen entered deserted police stations late today but allowed no one to enter. A 10-hour curfew restricting people to their homes began at 7 p.m. and some policemen in jeeps and trucks patrolled the city.
Monday’s violence was the worst since April 6, when police opened fire on pro-democracy demonstrators, and threatened the fledgling pro-democracy movement in this Himalayan kingdom.
Until this month, King Birendra had exercised virtually absolute power.
Five civilians were killed by police gunfire in Monday’s unrest and, according to the state-owned Rashtriya Samachar Samiti news agency, 15 policemen were missing. Only one policeman had been found by late today.
The mobs accused police of condoning and sometimes joining an underground pro-monarchist group blamed for a wave of crime since a new government headed by pro-democracy forces took office last week.
Two policemen captured early Monday were beaten for more than six hours before they died. Four more policemen were dragged from a police station and lynched by hundreds of people.
The crowds also set afire the zonal commissioner’s office, which houses a police station. Today, two policemen in riot gear stood guard outside the charred building.
They were the only policemen seen on foot during an hour-long tour of Katmandu.
″There are no policemen anywhere in the city,″ said a taxi driver who said he had been driving the streets for six hours. ″Even traffic policemen are absent today.″
One government source said the policemen were either ″unofficially withdrawn or are too scared to come out.″ Senior police officials could not be located for comment.
But shops opened and streets were clogged with traffic today after a ten- hour curfew clamped on Monday night was lifted at 6 a.m.. There were no reports of violence.
″The tremendous amount of confidence the people have in this government is compensating for the absence of police,″ said Home Minister Yog Prasad Upadhyay. ″This is apparent from the fact that ... the country is peaceful.″
Prime Minister Krishna Prasad Bhattarai met with King Birendra today to discuss the situation, officials said. No details of the meeting were available.
A scheduled meeting of the Cabinet was postponed, officials said on condition of anonymity. There had been indications a shake-up in the top ranks of the police force might be forthcoming after the Cabinet meeting.
Bhattarai and his government, a coalition of democrats, Communists, royalists and independents, took office last Thursday after an eight-week campaign against the previous regime, which was subservient to the king.
King Birendra caved in to the campaign on April 8, two days after police shot and killed 200 demonstrators as they marched on the palace, according to witnesses. The government said 10 people were killed and 107 wounded in all of Nepal on that day, but two days later Birendra lifted a 29-year ban on political parties.
Within 24 hours of the new government taking office, the capital of 250,000 people was faced with a rash of arson, mugging and looting, which residents blamed on a right-wing pro-monarchist group called Mandale.
The Mandale, an abbreviated form of Nepal Vidyarthi Mandal, or Nepal students group, went underground in 1979 after Birendra officially banned the group because of its violent tendencies.