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At Least 70 Killed in Nepal Fighting

December 14, 2003

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) _ Fighting between suspected rebels and security forces intensified in Nepal over the weekend, killing at least 70 people in separate attacks across the Himalayan kingdom, officials and media reports said Sunday.

Security forces attacked a rebel hideout in Dailekh district, 225 miles west of Katmandu, killing at least 35 insurgents, state-run Radio Nepal said.

Fighting erupted when the rebels attacked an army patrol near Piyakolek in the district, the radio report said. Security forces retaliated and chased the guerrillas to their hideout. No army casualties were reported.

In a separate attack, suspected rebels ambushed a police vehicle in eastern Nepal on Sunday, killing at least 11 policemen and injuring four others, a senior police official said.

The vehicle was blown up near Jaleshwor, 250 miles east of Katmandu, the capital, the official said on condition of anonymity.

The four policemen wounded in the attack were taken to a hospital near Jaleshwor, he said. Three of them were later transferred to a Katmandu hospital by helicopter as their condition worsened.

The vehicle was reduced to a heap of twisted metal and there was a 10-foot deep crater at the site of the explosion, a local radio station reported.

Elsewhere, 13 rebels were killed in two separate gunbattles between army soldiers and rebels on Sunday, the radio said, quoting unnamed officials.

On Saturday, government troops killed 11 suspected insurgents, including a rebel commander, in several clashes across Nepal, the Himalayan Times newspaper quoted unidentified defense officials as saying.

The rebels, who say they are inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, have been fighting since 1996 to establish a communist-style republic in the Himalayan kingdom.

More than 8,200 people have been killed since the insurgency began, including 1,200 since the rebels pulled out of the peace talks in August and resumed attacks on government and civilian targets.

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