Nepalese communist rebels attack police near busy highway

Communist rebels attacked a police post near a busy highway in southeastern Nepal in a clash Tuesday that killed at least one person and caused many other casualties, officials said.

The rebels came in a bus and attacked the police station at Birtamod, about 500 kilometers (310 miles) southeast of Katmandu, said Bhola Siwakoti, the chief government official in the area.

Siwakoti said there were many casualties but could not give the exact number because troops from the nearest army base camp had just begun to arrive and take control of the town.

At least one body had been recovered, but it was not immediately clear whether it was a rebel or policeman, he said.

The rebels have intensified attacks on government troops since withdrawing from a unilateral cease-fire earlier this year.

On Monday, they ambushed an army patrol near Katmandu, sparking a clash that killed at least 13 soldiers and an insurgent.

The violence has continued despite a decision by the rebels on Sunday to end a six-day highway blockade that had crippled life across the country.

The rebels also canceled plans for an indefinite general strike starting April 3, but said they would support an April 6-9 general strike called by an alliance of seven major political parties which has been trying to restore democracy in Nepal.

The guerrillas and the alliance agreed on Sunday to step up pressure on King Gyanendra, who dissolved the government and seized total control of the country in February last year. The king said he took the steps to halt corruption and quell the communist insurgency, reports the AP.

I.L.