Nepal army helicopters bomb mountainous districts to flush out rebels

Army helicopters bombed mountainous districts in southwest Nepal on Thursday in a massive campaign to flush communist rebels from the area, security officials said.

Separately, the royal government lifted remaining restrictions on mobile phones, weeks after shutting down services to try to prevent dissidents from organizing anti-government protests, a telecommunication official said.

In the latest offensive against the Maoist insurgents, the Royal Nepalese Army deployed hundreds of ground troops to Palpa and Nawalparasi districts, about 250 kilometers (150 miles) southwest of Katmandu, said security officials in the area reached by telephone.

Hundreds of rebels involved in recent attacks on government and civilian targets were believed to be hiding there, said the officials, who asked not to be named for fear of jeopardizing the mission. No further details were immediately available.

The area has been mired in violence since the guerrillas ended their unilateral cease-fire last month.

On Jan. 30, the rebels attacked the western town of Tansen, destroying government buildings and killing at least 20 security forces. A week later, 16 government troops died when rebels attacked an army convoy in the area.

The rebels, who say they are inspired by Chinese revolutionary Mao Zedong, have fought for a decade to establish a communist Nepal. The insurgency has claimed nearly 13,000 lives.

King Gyanendra seized control of the government in February 2005, saying he needed to quell the bloody rebellion and bring order to a chaotic and corrupt political scene, reports the AP.

I.L.