Strike calls to protest army killings shuts down Nepalese capital

A general strike called to protest the killing of a dozen civilians by a soldier shut down the Nepalese capital on Friday, as the government stepped up security to prevent any violence. Schools and businesses were closed while cars and buses stayed off the streets in Katmandu. Government workers were forced to walk to work.

The strike was called by the seven major political parties to protest the killing of 12 civilians by a soldier after an argument in a village near Katmandu. There were brief scuffles reported Friday between students enforcing the strike and riot police in Katmandu. Students blocked streets by burning tires and throwing rocks at police.

Hundreds of riot police were stationed on the main streets and patrolled the city.

The strike was announced despite government assurances of an independent investigation and compensation for the victims' families. The government said it would give the family of each fatality 150,000 rupees (US$2,000; Ђ1,660) and cover the costs of medical treatment for those injured.

The Royal Nepalese Army identified the soldier as Basudev Thapa and said he was killed in the incident at Nagarkot village, but did not say how he died. Thapa, who was reportedly intoxicated, got into an argument with the villagers and returned around midnight on Wednesday and sprayed them with bullets, killing 12 and injuring 19 others, witnesses said.

"The soldier was a frequent visitor to the village but on that night he got in an argument with some of the villagers. Most people fled when the shooting started and hid in nearby areas," said Bijaya Thing, who was shot in the arm.

Since King Gyanendra seized absolute power earlier this year, saying he needed total control to defeat communist rebels, the army has faced stepped-up criticism from human rights groups for using excessive force and killing civilians.

The Himalayan country's military has been repeatedly accused of violating human rights in its fight against the rebels, reports the AP. I.L.

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