U.S. HELP SOUGHT AS NEPAL KILLS 400 MAOIST REBELS
by Chiranjibi Paudyal
American Reporter Correspondent
KATHMANDU, Nepal -- In a significant reversal of fortune for Nepalese forces, government security forces attacked thetraining camps and hideout shelters of Maoist terrorists and killed about 400 of them over the last two days, officials said here. The terrorists are blamed for killing more than 1,000 police officers during a four-year rebellion.
Officials said at least 390 Maoist guerrillas, including some rebel commanders, were killed in Lisne, a village in the Rolpa district 350 kilometers west of Kathmandu, and in the Doti district, about 500 kilometers west of the capital, government sources said.
A joint team of the army and armed police forces attacked the training centers and hideouts of the communist guerrillas at Lisne Lek, a remote area which is a three-day trek from the nearest airport, on the basis of intelligence information and killed at least 350 guerrillas, the defense ministry said.
More than 50 other guerrillas were killed in Doti Friday, the defense ministry said, but the death toll could be higher there as the rebels dragged many bodies off after the army's attacks. According to local news reports, more than 600 Maoist guerrillas were gunned down in the security forces' action in the Lisne area alone, and the death toll to the guerrillas is very high.
The defense ministry said the death toll could be higher as the security forces estimated the toll on the basis of the statement made by arrested and wounded guerrillas, local people and the blood stains scattered around the areas. This is the biggest attack so far carried out by the government forces since the declaration of the state of emergency and mobilization of the army November 26 to crush the Maoist violence.
Rolpa is a stronghold of the guerrillas from where they started their insurgency in 1996. The Rolpa district is considered the capital of the guerrillas where they operate major training and hideout shelters.
It is reported that some senior leaders of the guerrillas were also at Lisne during the army operation, and some senior guerrillas may have been killed or captured by the security forces, a local district official said. The attack comes at a time when the Bush administration has asked Congress to provide $20 million in military aid to Nepal to fight the guerrillas' terrorism, and close to a visit to the United States by Nepal's prime minister, Sher Bahadur. Deuba left for the United States Sunday, and was scheduled to meet President Bush on Monday at the Oval office. The main purpose of his visit is to seek international support for Nepal's fight against terrorism, officials said.
Before his departure, Deuba said, "I will seek international support and cooperation to fight the terrorism."
"I will discuss with President Bush on the fight against the terrorism," he said of his agenda for the talks with President Bush.
The support of the United States is considered vital for the ability of resource-poor Nepal to fight the guerrillas who have destroyed the development infrastructure of Nepal in recent days.
"We have long stated our goal to provide both security assistance and a development assistance package to Nepal during its hour of need," said Robert Kerr, public affairs officer at the U.S. embassy in Kathmandu. "Development is impossible without security. And we support the Nepal government's responsibilities to protect its citizens and privateproperty."
An assessment team of about 20 advisors from different fields visited Nepal two weeks ago to assess the Nepali security force's needs. Nepal has said that it needs military training for its forces to fight the guerrillas. "The team has returned to Hawaii and is in the process of finalizing a list of recommendations. Once the team's recommendationsare accepted, the money must be approved by the U.S. Congress as part of a budget supplemental", Kerr said.
Deuba, who has repeatedly said that the guerrillas will be crushed, will request more assistance from the United States during his meetings with President Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and other senior officials. He hasrefused talks with the Maoists guerrillas until they surrender their arms. Deuba said, "There is no possibility of talks with the terrorists (Maoists) until they surrender weapons to the security forces." Though the political parties have called for dialogue with the guerrillas, there is no possibility of talks immediately as the security forces have made remarkable success in the fight against the terrorists.
The rebels have suffered heavy losses in the last month. More than 200 rebels were believed to have been killed in Dang last month. The security forces and the local people found hundreds of dead bodies of the Maoist guerrillas buried in the nearby river and forest areas. Their comrades apparentlyl attempted to hide the exact number of casualties by burying them. One week ago, some 40 heads put in sacks floated to the surface of the Seti River in far western Nepal. There is reported infighting among the guerrillas and the defense ministry and locals said that the rebels were killed in this internal fight.
There are reports that the guerrillas are divided in two groups: one supporting dialogue and another wanting the fighting to continue. Prachand -- whose real name is Pushpa Kamal Dahal -- is said to be in favour of talks, while Ram Bahadur Thapa, known as Badal ("Clouds" in English), wants to continue guerrilla war to establish a North Korea-style communist rule in the Himalayan Kingdom, situated between India and China.
The government has declared a cash reward of about $65,000 (U.S.) to help capture four leaders: Prachand, Badal, Baburam Bhattarai and Kiran Baidhya. Reward are also being offered to help arrest some other 35 guerrillas, including the commanders, and range from $15,000 to $65,000. According to the official figure, more than 3,500 people -- including the guerrillas, security personnel and civilians -- have been killed since the guerrillas launched the insurgency in 1996. But the actual figure could be higher as the Maoists take away the bodies of their dead comrades after the fighting.
The Maoists have targeted telecommunications systems, and about 30 out of 75 districts of Nepal are affected. There is also the loss of about 300 million Nepali rupees, which is a huge amount for a poor country like Nepal where the per capita income is around $220.
"The roads, bridges, health centers government offices and vehicles are destroyed and damaged by the rebels and innocent people are being killed, what type of communist system the Maoists are going to establish?" asks Madhav Kumar Nepal, leader of the main opposition Party, Communist Party of United Marxist and Leninist. "The army is determined to stamp out the terrorists and there is no possibility of talks with the rebels," said junior interior minister Devendra Raj Kandel.
"The U.S.A is going to support and the India is also pledging to support to fight the Maoists then the days of the Maoists are being counted," said a senior minister on condition of anonymity. "We will crush them."