Police open fire on protesters in Nepal, one injured

Police opened fire on a group protesting against the king in a resort town in western Nepal, injuring at least one person, witnesses said Thursday. The violence comes as the Himalayan country braces for local elections that government opponents have vowed to interrupt. Several groups of protesters were demonstrating in Pokhara, a resort town 200 kilometers (125 miles) west of Katmandu, when police used tear gas and batons to disperse them. The police later opened fire, injuring a bystander, according to a witness who also said several people were arrested.

Authorities could not be immediately reached for comment. Meanwhile, Nepal's one-day registration for municipal elections drew only a trickle of candidates as a general strike by dissidents to protest the polls left the capital nearly deserted.

The country's Maoist rebels and a coalition of the seven top political parties oppose the royalist government's plans for local elections on Feb. 8, arguing they will legitimize King Gyanendra's seizure of direct control over the central government a year ago. The political parties, which plan to boycott the elections, called a general strike for Thursday, and the rebels have warned candidates they could face violence if they register to run for office.

In Katmandu, a dozen people filed for candidacy during the first three hours after Nepal's Elections Commission opened the field for nominations under tight security. Three other candidates had filed their nominations in Lalitpur, a Katmandu suburb.

The strike calls prompted schools across this Himalayan nation to close. In the capital, Katmandu, security forces were posted at all major intersections. Streets were deserted, with no private vehicles on the roads. Police in blue riot stood guard at buildings and prominent places, reports the AP. I.L.

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