Katmandu, Nepal Tens of thousands of Nepalis defied a curfew to protest Thursday in the largest show of discontent with King Gyanendra since demonstrations against his royal dictatorship began more than two weeks ago. Security forces responded by fatally shooting three protesters.
The nearly two dozen demonstrations, which brought as many as 100,000 people into the streets around the capital, Katmandu, ranged from festive pro-democracy rallies to angry riots of young men who lit bonfires and hurled bricks at police. Some demanded the death of the king, whose government appears increasingly unable to control the country.
By midday Thursday, soldiers were patrolling in armored vehicles and at least one police post had been attacked, its windows smashed by bricks.
Nepal's royal government imposed a curfew early today in the capital and surrounding areas, warning people to stay indoors between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. or risk being shot.
The government said the curfew was imposed "to protect the people, property and peace." Katmandu residents rushed to buy food and supplies before it began.
Gyanendra came under more diplomatic pressure Thursday to cede the power he seized 14 months ago from an interim government.
Despite a curfew imposed to head off protests, an alliance of seven opposition parties that has organized 15 days of protests and a general strike managed to draw tens of thousands of people into the streets, according to estimates by police, organizers and witnesses.
While there have been bloodier days since the protests began, much of Nepal's life - political and economic - is centered in Katmandu, and Thursday's demonstrations dwarfed all earlier ones in the capital.
Early in the day, residents in the city center - where a heavy police presence kept most protesters at bay - whistled and banged plates on their rooftops. Cell phone text messages encouraged Katmandu's 1.5 million residents to rally at the city's edge.
Many of those protests turned violent as demonstrators parried with officers throughout the day, often tossing back tear gas canisters to cheers from supporters watching from rooftops.
The worst violence came on the city's western edge, where police trying to keep more than 10,000 protesters from reaching the ring road opened fire with tear gas, rubber bullets and finally live ammunition.
Witnesses said the shooting in Kalanki began when a senior police officer drew his pistol and shot a protester in the head, an act followed by gunfire from police and soldiers.
Doctors at Katmandu's Model hospital said three people were killed in Kalanki.