Nepal soldiers clash with communist rebels

Communist rebels ambushed an army patrol in central Nepal on Monday, sparking a clash that killed at least eight soldiers and one insurgent, officials said.

The latest violence in the country's decade-old insurgency came one day after the rebels ended a highway blockade that had crippled life across the country for six days.

Buses on Monday were transporting thousands of stranded travelers and trucks brought in much-needed fuel, food and supplies into Nepal's capital, Katmandu, after the roads were cleared.

The attack in central Nepal took place near an army camp at Bhakundebeshi, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) east of Katmandu. The soldiers were out on a patrol to investigate suspicions that rebels had blocked the camp's water supply when they were attacked, security officials said.

The officials, who would not be identified because they are not authorized to speak to reporters, said rebels hiding on the side of a road detonated an explosion and then began firing on the army team, killing at least eight soldiers.

One rebel was confirmed killed in the ensuing gunbattle, the officials said.

Reinforcement were sent to the area and soldiers combed the mountain terrain to search for the attackers.

At the Nagdhunga checkpoint onto the Prithvi highway, the main route out of Katmandu, hundreds of vehicles passed through, taking passengers who had been stranded since the blockade began. March 14.

Nepal has no railroads, and trucks haul virtually all fuel, food and other supplies. Trucks bringing in milk, flour, vegetables and fruits began to enter the capital on Monday morning, according to police officials at the checkpoint.

The rebels had cut off major cities and towns as part of their campaign to topple Nepal's royalist government, but agreed on Sunday to heed pleas by the country's main political parties to end the blockade.

At a meeting Sunday, the rebels and the country's alliance of seven major political parties agreed to step up pressure on King Gyanendra, who dissolved the government and seized total control of the country in February last year.

The rebels also called off plans for an indefinite general strike starting April 3 and said they would instead support a separate April 6-9 general strike called by the seven parties, reports CNN.


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