Pro-government candidate murdered by suspected rebels in Nepal dies

A pro-government candidate in Nepal 's municipal election died Friday after being shot by communist rebels the second person to be assassinated ahead of next week's polls. Tribeni Majhi of the Nepal Sadbhawana Party was shot by two men at his home on Thursday night in the town of Biratnagar in eastern Nepal . He died Friday, police officials said.

Majhi is the second candidate to be killed ahead of the Feb. 8 municipal election in Nepal .

The attack came despite tightened security by the royal government following an increase in attacks by Maoist rebels, who have issued threats against candidates and called a seven-day general strike aimed at disrupting the polls.

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 rebels, who are fighting to replace Nepal 's monarchy with a socialist state, have increased attacks since calling a halt to their 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.

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.

Meanwhile, the rebels issued a statement Friday saying all 29 government officials, army soldiers and police being held captive after the fierce battle in western Nepal on Wednesday are safe.

The statement said the prisoners would gradually be freed after an investigation but did not specify when.

At least 20 security personnel and some rebels were killed in the fighting at Tansen, about 300 kilometers (190 miles) west of Katmandu on Wednesday.

Also Friday, police broke up a protest rally by teachers and professors in Katmandu , detaining 36. Among them were four journalists who were being held at a police station in Katmandu , said Bishnu Nisthuri, president of Federation of Nepalese Journalists, reports the AP.


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