Sunday, September 2

Bombs kill 2, wound 26 in Nepal capital Kathmandu

KATHMANDU, Sept 2 (Reuters) - Three near-simultaneous bomb blasts killed two women and wounded 26 people in Kathmandu on Sunday, police said, the first attacks in the Nepali capital since a Maoist revolt in the Himalayan nation ended last year.
The attacks came less than three months before the impoverished nation, sandwiched between Asian giants India and China, votes to elect a new constituent assembly to decide the fate of the monarchy the Maoists want abolished.
The government and the Maoists said the attacks were aimed at disrupting the vote.
The Terai Army, a little-known group of ethnic rebels in the southern plains, as well as the previously unheard of Terai Utthan Sangat, claimed responsibility for the attacks in calls to local media. The claims could not be verified independently.
One of the bombs went off outside a school and near the newly built United World Trade Centre business complex in the Tripureswor area in central Kathmandu, killing the two women.
Another went off outside some shops less than a mile away in the central Sundhara area, while the third was placed inside a mini-bus outside an industrial park in Balaju, a northwestern suburb.

"I was cycling to work when I heard a big explosion ... soon I saw people falling down," said Sunil Maharjan, a witness at the site of one of the city centre blasts.
"I put three students who were injured in a taxi and took them to the hospital."
Padam Bahadur Magar, the driver of a city bus carrying about 70 passengers in Tripureswor, said the blast took place just as he stopped the vehicle.
"It was a big explosion, the windows of my bus were shattered ... some of my passengers were injured," he said.
Another witness said he saw school text books and pens scattered on the bloodstained ground.
Outside the industrial park in Balaju, police towed away the mangled wreckage of the mini-bus whose roof had been blown off. Blood-stained shoes, caps and torn clothes lay scattered around.


The bombs shattered a long spell of peace in Kathmandu Valley, which began after the Maoists and the government reached a truce last year, ending a decade-long insurgency that killed about 13,000 people.

"We have no basis yet to suspect anybody," said Home Ministry spokesman Baman Prasad Neupane. "But I think the Terai Army has claimed responsibility to the media."
A Home Ministry statement said the attacks were "a serious conspiracy aimed at derailing" the constituent assembly vote.
Maoist chief Prachanda, who uses only one name, blamed "reactionary forces" for the attacks.
"It is aimed at disrupting the ongoing peace process and the campaign for establishing a democratic republic," he said.
During the Maoist conflict, the rebels frequently targeted Kathmandu with small bombs, planting them at busy streets, in markets, shopping malls and government buildings.

The Terai Army is one of several ethnic Madhesi rebel groups which are fighting for the autonomy of Nepal's fertile southern Terai plains bordering India.
Scores of people have died in the region this year in violence by ethnic Madhesi groups demanding more government jobs, more seats in parliament and regional autonomy.
Defence analyst Indrajit Rai said the blasts indicated that a recent agreement between the government and the main Madhesi group would not end the unrest in the region unless other rebel groups were also brought into the mainstream.
"This is only a trailer. The actual movie is yet to come," he said. "The government should be alert and hold talks with all groups that are fighting for more rights in the Terai."

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