Blasts shake Nepal ahead of crucial polls

April 7th, 2008 - 7:04 pm ICT by admin  

(Lead)
By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, April 7 (IANS) At least 10 people were injured in bomb blasts that occurred at election rallies in three major districts of Nepal Monday, three days ahead of crucial polls in the Himalayan nation. Besides Kathmandu, explosions occurred in Birgunj, the industrial hub in southern Nepal along the India-Nepal border, and in Inaruwa town in the Terai plains.

The Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), the main opposition party that had in the past supported monarchy, was shaken when a motorcycle-borne assailant hurled a bomb after its rally in a prime area of the capital Monday afternoon.

At least one person was injured when the bomb went off near the Birendra International Convention Centre in Baneshwor area, one of the landmarks of the city.

Last week, three bombs went off in different locations in Kathmandu, including one near the office of the Maoists.

Around 3.30 p.m., another bomb went off at the rally of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress party in Birgunj town. At least four people were injured, two of them seriously.

The third blast was reported from Inaruwa town in Sunsari district, from where the prime minister’s daughter Sujata, currently minister without portfolio, is making her poll debut.

While no one claimed immediate responsibility for the blasts in the capital and Birgunj, an armed group of former Maoists that is opposing Thursday’s election said it was behind the Inaruwa explosion.

The Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha has called an indefinite closure and transport strike in the plains on the eve of the election to disrupt it.

There are elaborate security arrangements to ensure a violence-free election, including round-the-clock helicopter patrols.

The vote will elect a 601-member constituent assembly that will decide if King Gyanendra should keep his throne or be axed for a republic.

The election, the first of its kind in Nepal, became a popular demand after King Gyanendra seized power in 2005 with an army-backed coup.

His 14-month absolute rule triggered a national outcry and a peaceful uprising, in which the Maoist guerrillas also took part, compelling the king to step down.

The new government of opposition parties stripped the monarch of his powers and pledged to hold the constituent assembly election.

However, the critical poll was delayed twice last year, due to the deteriorating security situation in the Terai and then opposition by the Maoists, who wanted the king to be ousted before the election.

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