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Premier: Royals Shot by Accident

June 3, 2001

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KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) _ Nepal’s prime minister asserted Sunday that eight members of the royal family were killed by ``accidental″ automatic weapon fire, contradicting officials who had suggested the crown prince killed his relatives in a dispute over his wedding plans.

In a written statement, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala said the shootings that killed King Birendra, the queen and six other royals were an accident and did not name Crown Prince Dipendra, who was on life support after the shootings, as the gunman. Dipendra was named king to succeed his father.

Official sources had said Saturday that Dipendra shot his parents and six other relatives to death late Friday before turning the gun on himself in a rampage that a senior military official said apparently erupted after his mother, Queen Aiswarya, objected to his intended bride.

``According to the information we have, the incident happened by an accidental firing of an automatic weapon, seriously injuring the king, the queen, the crown prince and members of the royal family,″ Koirala said in the statement.

``They were rushed to the hospital, where, despite the efforts of the doctors, his majesty the king passed away,″ the prime minister said. He said that as of Friday night, when the shooting occurred, ``Dipendra has been declared his majesty the king of the kingdom of Nepal.″

By mentioning the gunfire, Koirala went further than the government newspaper, Rising Nepal, which referred only to ``an unanticipated incident.″ Government officials were unavailable for comment Sunday, part of a five-day nationwide mourning period.

The newspaper pictured Dipendra, now king, in royal attire on its front page Sunday, but the 29-year-old remained on life support in a hospital and his uncle, Gyanendra, who is little known among Nepalis, was acting king.

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