Nepal's communist rebels continue attacks

Explosions blamed on communist rebels rocked several towns overnight in Nepal just hours after King Gyanendra claimed his year of direct rule had curtailed attacks by the insurgents, officials said Thursday. Suspected rebels in the southwestern town of Kapilbastu bombed the house of Ram Das Gupta, the town's lone mayoral candidates for nationwide municipal elections next week that the insurgents have vowed to disrupt.

The house was destroyed, but Gupta and his family were unharmed because they were staying at a government safe house, said Deepak Kumar Joshi, the chief government officer in the area. Kapilbastu is about 300 kilometers (190 miles) southwest of Katmandu.

The rebels, who have threatened to attack any candidates contesting the elections, also were blamed for explosions at the houses of two mayoral candidates in Tikapur, about 500 kilometers (310 miles) west of Katmandu.

There were no casualties because the occupants were living in an undisclosed location, said Maniraj Gyawali, a government official in the area.

In neighboring Dhangadi town, a group of rebels fought a gunbattle for an hour on Wednesday night but were forced to retreat by government security forces.

In Tanahu, 160 kilometers (100 miles) west of Katmandu, explosions damaged the police chief's residence. Attackers also opened fire with guns, but no casualties were reported.

The attacks came just hours after King Gyanendra announced that security had improved since he seized absolute power a year ago, and that the tide was turning against the rebels, who control large parts of rural Nepal, reports the AP. I.L.

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