General strike partially shuts down southern Nepal

Security forces were on high alert Monday as a general strike called by an ethnic minority rights group partially shut down much of southern Nepal, officials said.

Markets and schools were closed and traffic was sparse, said Yogeswor Romkhami, police chief in Rahutahat district, about 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Katmandu.

Romkhami said there were no reports of violence or protests in the district.

In neighboring Bara district, markets were partially closed and the situation was calm, chief government administrator Bhola Siwakoti said.

Both Romkhami and Siwakoti said police were escorting buses and trucks on the highways and security forces were on high alert.

The strike was called by the Terai People's Liberation Front, one of several groups that have been demanding greater autonomy and more seats in the national legislature for the southern region. They say the region has been sidelined in favor of the more populated mountainous areas in the north.

Violent protests in the south have killed 60 people this year and there have been frequent strikes.

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Author`s name Angela Antonova