Queen Elizabeth Condemns Nepal Bombings
KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) _ Queen Elizabeth II, starting a four-day state visit to this longtime British ally in the Himalayas, Monday condemned the terrorist bomb attacks that shattered its Shangri-la image eight months ago.
″Britain abhors terrorism and condemns it wherever and whenever it occurs,″ the queen said at a banquet hosted by Nepal’s King Birendra and Queen Ashiwarya.
″So we share your revulsion at the bomb outrages which took place in Katmandu last year, and we offer our sympathy to the victims and their families,″ she said.
The bombings June 20 in the capital and three other cities killed seven people and injured 27. Anti-monarchist Nepalese exile groups based in India claimed responsibility.
The blasts coincided with a movement by several political groups for the restoration of parliamentary democracy, scrapped in 1960 by Birendra’s father, the late King Mahendra.
The queen and her husband, Prince Philip, last visited Nepal 25 years ago. They were greeted at the airport Monday by an honor guard of Gurkha troops.
Gurkha soldiers have been recruited by the British army since 1816, when Britain and Nepal signed a treaty ending a war along the border of what then was British-ruled India.
Gurkha soldiers fought for Britain in numerous major conflicts, including World Wars I and II and the Falkland Islands war with Argentina in 1983. They gained a reputation as loyal and fierce fighters. Currently about 8,400 Gurkhas are enlisted in the British armed forces, mostly in Hong Kong.
The queen hailed the Gurkhas in her banquet speech.
″By their legendary exploits, the Gurkhas have won for themselves a special place in military history,″ she said. ″I am glad to reiterate our thanks for the selfless comradeship in arms which we have shared with them for so long.″
Birenda, who was educated at Eton College, thanked Britain for supporting his country’s decade-old proposal for the nation to be declared a ″zone of peace.″ About 70 countries have endorsed the plan, but Nepal’s giant neighbor India, has refused.
″Each of us whether we are big or small, strong or weak, live in a world where we love to seek our identity and live in freedom and independence,″ the 40-year-old king said.
After leaving the airport, the queen drove by black limousine to the capital’s Durbar Square area, famous for its ancient pagoda-style Hindu temples.
Hundreds of schoolgirls in colorful uniforms packed the steps of the multi- tiered temples, waving handkerchiefs and British and Nepali flags. A dozen young women in purple saris sprinkled flowers at the queen’s feet as she walked on a red carpet to the Kasthamandap Temple, a three-story pagoda carved from the teak wood of a single tree in the 16th centuyry.
Then Queen Elizabeth and King Birendra rode to the modernistic royal palace, known as Naryanhati, or Fountain of God, in an open green carriage drawn by six horses. Prince Philip and Queen Ashiwarya followed in a burgundy coach.
Tens of thousands of people lined the route, including tribal dancers, musicians, Buddhist monks in burgundy robes and athletes in jogging suits and judo outfits.
The queen and Prince Philip are scheduled to leave Friday for New Zealand and Australia.