Nepali protesters fired on; 2 killed

Binaj Gurubacharya Associated Press Apr. 9, 2006 12:00 AM

KATMANDU, Nepal - Nepali security forces fired on stone-throwing protesters Saturday, killing two people and wounding at least five as increasingly violent demonstrations against King Gyanendra spread across the Himalayan nation.

Protesters ransacked government buildings and attacked security forces in provincial cities, but a curfew and a threat by authorities to shoot anyone violating it spared the capital, Katmandu, further violence after two days of protests.

However, political parties pledged to renew demonstrations in the capital, raising fears of a deepening crisis as the clearly emboldened opposition pressed Nepal's embattled yet uncompromising king to restore democracy.

Saturday's violence came on the 16th anniversary of the introduction of democracy in Nepal, an experiment that Gyanendra abruptly ended last year when he reclaimed absolute power for the royal dynasty.

At the time, he said the move was needed to bring order to a chaotic and corrupt political scene and to end a communist insurgency that has killed nearly 13,000 people in the past decade.

In the southern town of Bharatpur, a demonstration by more than 25,000 pro-democracy supporters erupted into riots Saturday. It was the largest protest since a four-day nationwide strike called by the opposition, and backed by the rebels, began Thursday.

The protesters set fire to at least a half-dozen government offices and forced riot police to retreat from the town's main square, an official said, requesting anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Police fired bullets and tear gas to disperse the protesters, injuring three women, including two sisters who were watching the melee, the official said.

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