Archive for Sunday, April 23, 2006

243 injured as forces fire at protesters

April 23, 2006

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— Nepali security forces opened fire on a march by tens of thousands of demonstrators heading toward the royal palace Saturday to protest King Gyanendra's rule. More than 200 were injured.

The demonstrators defied a curfew as an alliance of seven opposition parties rejected the king's offer to let them nominate a prime minister and form a government. Security forces responded by firing rubber and live bullets and beating protesters with bamboo batons.

The Nepalese Red Cross Society said 243 people were injured and 39 of them were hospitalized. Many were hurt in stampedes as they tried to flee. The clash occurred about 3 miles from the royal palace in the heart of this Himalayan nation.

"Security forces opened fire on the crowd without warning, wounding many of us," said Ganesh Shrestha, who was shot in the arm.

Today authorities imposed a daytime curfew for the fourth straight day to try to prevent more demonstrations.

Nepal's crisis has escalated since a general strike called by the parties and communist rebels began two weeks ago. Protesters have filled the streets daily, leaving the country paralyzed, stores emptied of goods and the situation dangerously volatile. Security forces firing at protesters have killed at least 14 and wounded many more.

Opposition leaders said the king's offer to resolve a crisis that began after he seized power in February 2005 fell short of a key opposition demand: the return of parliament and creation of a special assembly to write a constitution.

Protests died down quickly in the afternoon when it started to rain and hail. By early evening, most demonstrators had retreated to narrow alleys or gone home.

Authorities later cut mobile phone services in Katmandu, a telecommunications official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation. Protest organizers have repeatedly used mobile phones and text messages to rally demonstrators during more than two weeks of protests.

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