One burnt to death, 17 missing in Nepal rebel attack

December 2nd, 2008 - 12:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Dec 2 (IANS) One person was burnt to death and 17 people were missing after armed rebels early Tuesday attacked a passenger bus in southern Nepal near the border with India, officials said.An underground organisation in Nepal’s restive Terai plains, that claims to be fighting for greater rights for plains people, allegedly set the bus alight around 4.30 a.m. Tuesday near a market in Saptari district saying it had violated the two-day closure called by them in the region to protest against the death of a comrade at the hands of security forces last week.

Initial reports said the bus, going to Sunsari district on the India-Nepal border from Kathmandu, was carrying about 46 passengers. While the dazed survivors took shelter in nearby villages, 17 were still missing.

Though Nepal’s new government headed by the former Maoist guerrillas formed a ministerial team two months ago to begin dialogue with over a dozen armed groups on war in the Terai, little progress has been made due to growing fights among the parties in the coalition government as well among the Maoists themselves.

Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda faces a challenge to his leadership from his hardline peers in the party, a threat that will not be resolved till a mass meeting of the Maoists scheduled for summer.

Though the 10-year Maoist insurgency, that killed at least 14,000 people, ended two years ago, the Terai, which is the food bowl of the Himalayan republic, has become the new hotbed of violence with armed groups beginning separate battles from underground emboldened by the Maoists’ success with the gun.

While some of the groups claim to have a political goal - gaining autonomy or downright independence, still others are considered as merely criminal in nature, thriving on abduction, killings and extortion.

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