Wed, Feb 09, 2005 - Page 1 News List

1,000 Nepalese in custody as phone connection restored

AGENCIES , KATHMANDU

More than 1,000 political activists have been rounded up across Nepal since King Gyanendra sacked the government and assumed power a week ago, a leading political party said yesterday.

Among those being held, apparently to prevent them organizing anti-monarchy protests, were leaders of political parties, trade unions and student groups, according to Arjun Narshingh, spokesman for the opposition Nepali Congress.

"About 400 of those arrested are Nepali Congress activists," Narshingh said, adding that Nepali Congress president Girija Prasad Koirala, general secretary Sushil Koirala and five central committee members were among them.

Narshingh said that for the first time his party had been able to collate figures of those arrested outside of the capital Kathmandu due to the restoration of telephone links.

Ordinary Nepalese yesterday rushed to call friends and families abroad after the phone lines were restored.

Hundreds of thousands of Nepalese living overseas hadn't been able to contact relatives since Gyanendra's crackdown, which followed the ouster of the country's previous government led by former prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba.

The restoration of international phone lines -- a day after domestic services were up and running -- was one of the first indications of normalcy returning to this Himalayan kingdom.

Soldiers still patrolled streets in Kathmandu and other cities, and some highways remained blocked. But schools were reopening, and domestic and international flights were running on schedule.

Meanwhile, Nepalese troops backed by helicopters have attacked Maoist camps in the jungles in the west of the country, as part of a new offensive against the rebels launched.

Dozens of Maoists have been killed in the strikes on training camps and shelters near the western city of Nepalgunj, reports said yesterday, but the army said it was still waiting for details.

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