Sun, Oct 07, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Nepal imposes 24-hour curfew

STREET BATTLES Authorities said the curfew in Biratnagar was declared after a group of protesters attacked a police patrol, leaving at least 10 policemen injured


Nepalese officials imposed a 24-hour curfew on the country's second-largest city following clashes in the restive south between an ethnic rights group and police.

Vehicles, meanwhile, were prohibited from traveling on a key highway by another ethnic group also demanding greater rights.

The 24-hour curfew was imposed in Biratnagar, 500km southeast of Kathmandu, after the group's activists attacked a police patrol, sparking street battles, said Madhav Regmi, chief government administrator in the area.

"We imposed the curfew in the town from late night Friday after fierce clashes between police and the protesters," Regmi told reporters yesterday.

At least 10 policemen were hurt as the two sides used rocks and sticks against each other, he said.

Another curfew was imposed in neighboring Saptari District to stop another group who blocked the key east-west highway on Friday, police official Shyam Khadka said.

Activists vandalized several vehicles that defied their order to stay off the highway.

Several ethnic groups in southern Nepal have been organizing strikes, transportation shutdowns, and demonstrations to demand greater rights.

Violence in the region has killed at least 70 people this year.

Many southerners say their area has been sidelined in favor of Nepal's more populated, mountainous north.

They are demanding greater autonomy, more seats in the national legislature, and a guaranteed number of representatives in the administration.

Meanwhile, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said on Friday that he was "disappointed" by the postponement of elections to decide Nepal's future, but said the world body remained ready to help it establish durable peace.

"The Secretary General is disappointed by the decision of the Interim Government of Nepal to postpone the Constituent Assembly Election which had been scheduled for 22 November," Ban's spokeswoman Michele Montas said in a statement.

"He strongly urges the Seven-Party Alliance to redouble efforts so that outstanding issues can be expeditiously resolved and the election held very soon," the statement said.

"The people of Nepal have demonstrated their desire for peace and the stakes are too high to allow manageable differences to deny their aspirations," the statement said.

Ban said the UN remained committed to "assisting efforts to establish a durable peace in Nepal."

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