Soldier killed about dozen civilians in Nepal

A soldier killed about a dozen civilians returning from a festival near Nepal's capital, apparently after an argument broke out between him and local villagers, officials said Thursday. The soldier was also killed in the incident but it was not clear how he died, said Bashanta Raj Bhattarai, the chief administrative official of Bhakatpur district, noting the investigation was under way.

Some other villagers were injured in the shooting, he said. Another local government official investigating the incident said the soldier was involved in an argument with the villagers near Nagarkot, about 24 kilometers (15 miles) northeast of the capital, Katmandu. The official, talking on condition of anonymity, said the soldier sprayed them with bullets after the argument. Royal Nepalese Army spokesman Col. Umesh Bhattarai said the army was investigating to find out the cause.

Earlier reports had said soldiers could have mistaken the villagers for communist rebels and opened fire at them. The army has been on high alert since the rebels stepped up attacks earlier this year. The rebels, who say they are inspired by Chinese communist revolutionary Mao Zedong, have been fighting since 1996 to topple Nepal's monarchy and establish a communist state. About 12,000 people have died in the insurgency, reports the AP. I.L.

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