Nepal rebels threaten severe action against candidates in municipal elections

Communist rebels threatened on Saturday to take "severe action" against candidates in upcoming municipal elections called by Nepal's royalist government.

Prabha Kiran, the rebel commander in Katmandu, also ordered people not to participate in any tasks related to the polls. He said anyone who has already registered as a candidate should withdraw by Wednesday.

"Those who defy orders should be prepared for severe action," he said in a statement.

"We ask everyone to stay away from the election process, campaigning and contesting the so-called elections. Defiance would lead to severe consequences," he said.

The rebels have already been blamed for the death of one candidate and abduction of another in recent days.

The rebels and the country's seven largest political parties oppose the 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 parties called a nationwide general strike last Thursday to stop candidates from filing their applications.

Candidates have registered to contest less than half the 4,146 races for mayor, deputy mayor and city council in 58 towns across the Himalayan nation.

Also Saturday, the Defense Ministry said at least five communist rebels were killed while they were making bombs in southern Nepal.

The bombs exploded Thursday night at a house in Shivnagar, about 300 kilometers (190 miles) southwest of Katmandu, said Defense Ministry spokesman Bhupendra Poudel.

Local rebel leader Shivnath Yadav was among the five killed in the blast, Poudel said. No other details were available.

Communist rebels have intensified attacks since they ended a unilateral cease-fire on Jan. 2, accusing the government of attacking them and failing to match their suspension of violence.

The guerrillas, who say they are inspired by Chinese revolutionary Mao Zedong, began fighting in 1996 to replace the constitutional monarchy with a socialist state. The insurgency has claimed about 12,000 lives, AP reported. V.A.

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