A communist rebel leader warned yesterday that guerrillas would continue attacks on Nepalese government targets following a fierce battle over the weekend in which the army said hundreds of rebels died.
"We will continue with this series of military actions," rebel leader Prachanda, who uses only one name, said in a statement.
The warning comes after a battle in central Nepal on Saturday described as the fiercest fighting since a ceasefire collapsed last year. Hundreds of rebels swarmed into Beni, a mountain town 280km west of Katmandu, the capital, and battled security forces for nearly 12 hours before being chased away by reinforcements.
Army spokesman Colonel Deepak Gurung said the army had taken control of the area and was hunting the rebels from both land and air.
The government said its forces killed as many as 500 rebels, but the guerrillas said they lost only about 40 fighters.
Eighteen soldiers and policemen were killed and 18 others were injured, Gurung said.
Rebels attacked the town's jail, bombed the district administration office and set fire to the police station.
Prachanda, whose real name is Pushpa Kamal Dahal, said the rebels were victorious in the battle, capturing many government security officials and taking many modern weapons from them.
There has been no independent confirmation of either side's claims.
Fighting between the rebels and government soldiers has escalated since the insurgents withdrew from a seven-month cease-fire last August and broke off peace talks. The two sides failed to break an impasse over the rebels' demand for a special elected assembly to draft a new constitution and decide whether Nepal's king should continue as a constitutional monarch.
The rebels, who say they are inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong (
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