Security steps up across Nepal because of strike of communist rebels

Security was stepped up across Nepal on Friday following an increase in attacks by communist rebels, who have called a seven-day general strike aimed at disrupting next week's municipal elections. Home Minister Kamal Thapa urged citizens to reject next week's strike call, saying businesses, schools and transport would be protected against rebel attacks.

"Security arrangements have been improved and more troops have been mobilized to control violence," Thapa said, without giving details. "We are urging the people to reject violence and terror and ignore the threats by the insurgents. Everyone should team up to foil the strike," Thapa said.

The rebels have called a nationwide strike for one week starting Sunday to disrupt next Wednesday's elections in Nepal's 58 cities and towns. Markets, schools and businesses usually close during the strikes because the rebels are known to attack those who defy their orders.

The Maoist rebels, who are fighting to replace Nepal's monarchy with a socialist state, have increased attacks since withdrawing from a cease-fire last month.

The rebels have bombed the houses of several mayoral candidates in the past few days and launched a major attack in a western Nepal town, killing at least 20 security personnel and taking dozens of others hostage, reports the AP.


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