Everest climbers arrive in Nepal; 500 Maoists killed near Annapurna
12:41 p.m. EST Mar 23, 2004
In a small town called Beni, about 150 kilometers west of Annapurna and Dhaulagiri, Nepali troops claim to have killed roughly 500 Maoist rebels in a 12-hour battle on Sunday. This is the bloodiest single clash since the revolt against the country’s constitutional monarchy began in 1996. The fighting went on all day at Beni in the Myagdi district, 190 miles from the capital, Katmandu. 20 policemen and soldiers were also killed. This brings the number of people killed in eight years of civil war to 9,000.
In a popular spot for trekking, there are unexploded crude bombs and buried mines littering the deserted streets of the riverside town which is on the way to scenic Mustang district. Rebels set up road blocks and blew up a bridge on way to Beni to prevent reinforcements from arriving.
There are four expeditions heading to Annapurna this spring, two to Dhaulagiri, and roughly fifty heading to the Himalayas in total.
Last year ExplorersWeb reported news on Maoist rebels in the Kangchenjunga region; ‘While the spring season’s Kangch expeditions had no issues, Carlos Pauner reported that villages traveled through on the way are littered with Red flags and have loudspeakers pumping out Maoist propaganda.’
Asian Times reports from Nepal that Maoist guerillas now routinely break local people’s legs using rocks. Some trekkers were also beaten because they refused to pay the Maoists a ‘donation’. But it is far worse for our Nepali brothers. One 27 year old was forced to dig a ditch. When he refused to lie in it, the Maoists chopped off his legs and buried him alive. A 79-year-old had his head slowly cut off in front of his family after refusing to pay a donation to the Maoists, according to Asia Times. The Maoists have also taken to abducting teachers and students. Recently, 60 students were abducted, “in keeping with the ANNISU-R plan to create a 50,000-strong child militia by April-May,” the Himalayan Times said.
There is hope however; Lance Trumbull, of the Everest Peace Project expedition, recently said of the conflict in Nepal, “There has been much reported violence and unrest reported in Nepal as of late--with the continued Maoist problems and a government not working hard at resolving the issues...the main hope may lie with the normal people of Nepal making their voices heard. All over the country there have and continue to be demonstrations of peace and tolerance - where people of several faiths have joined together to bring about an end to the violence that has plagued the country for many years.
The Maoists worry about their "International reputation" and they also need our money, so expeditions this year should be fine. But even with that, when you stop at the teahouses - don't just ask for a bed and a meal. Not this time. This year listen to our Nepali brothers and sisters when they talk of their situation there.
The following is a chronology of the main Maoist/political events in the Himalayan kingdom: (Reuters)
Feb 1996 - Maoist rebels launch armed insurgency aimed at replacing the constitutional monarchy with a one-party communist republic.
Jan 1999 - King Birendra dissolves parliament. Security for May elections is heavy because of Maoist unrest.
June 1, 2001 - King Birendra, Queen Aishwarya and other royal family members are killed in shooting rampage by Crown Prince Dipendra, who then shoots himself.
July - Maoist rebels step up violence. Sher Bahadur Deuba becomes prime minister, heading the 11th government in 11 years, after Girija Prasad Koirala resigns over the violence.
July 23 - Deuba announces peace with rebels, truce begins.
Nov 21 - Maoist party says peace talks have failed and the truce is no longer justified.
Nov 23 - Maoists launch coordinated attacks on army and police posts, ending truce with bloody violence which kills at least 45 people. King Gyanendra declares a state of emergency three days later and government declares the Maoists rebels a "terrorist organization".
Oct 2002 - The government says that the six-year-old Maoist rebellion has killed at least 7,073 people, mostly rebels.
Mar 2004 - Nepali troops kill 500 Maoist rebels in a 12-hour battle, in what would be the bloodiest single clash since the revolt began in 1996.
Map of Nepal courtesy of theage.com