Two killed in mosque attack, Muslims shut down east Nepal

March 30th, 2008 - 6:53 pm ICT by admin  

(Second Lead)
By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, March 30 (IANS) Life in eastern Nepal came to a halt Sunday as enraged Muslims called a shutdown in three major districts to protest the killing of two people in a mosque Saturday night, ignoring Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s call for restraint. Jhapa, Morang and Sunsari districts in eastern Nepal, adjoining the border with India, saw transport halted and shops and markets closed as the minority Muslim community, which has a sizeable presence in the Terai plains, called for justice for the slain men.

Protest marches began on the streets of Biratnagar town despite the imposition of curfew.

Two local businessmen Feroze Khan and Parvez Iraqi Ansari were killed when they were caught in the blasts that shook the Chhote Mosque in the town Saturday evening while about five dozen people were offering their evening prayers.

Three men rode past the mosque and hurled three to four bombs. Four praying men were injured. Khan and Ansari died while being rushed to hospital.

The attack came in the face of beefed up security in the industrial town, which is also the home of the prime minister, where he had been campaigning for the April 10 election.

Condemning the attacks, Koirala urged the Muslim community to show restraint, reminding them that anti-election forces were trying to sabotage the poll that is a key step to restoring peace and stability in the Himalayan nation once torn by civil war.

Condemnations started pouring in from both national and international organisations, which asked the government to take stringent action against the guilty.

The UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) that is managing the arms and combatants of the Maoists’ guerrilla army to ensure a free and fair election said the perpetrators who had deliberately targeted a place of worship should be promptly identified and brought to justice.

“Forces tempted to try to disrupt the election should recognise the backlash this would provoke,” UNMIN chief Ian Martin said.

“They should respect the overwhelming desire of the people of Nepal, supported by the international community, to see the election of the Constituent Assembly as the democratic basis for determining the future of the nation.”

Another UN agency that is monitoring the human rights situation in Nepal asked the government for better security.

“The government (should) take all necessary steps to protect mosques and other places of religious worship,” said Frederick Rawski, head of the Eastern Regional Office of UN Office of the High Commission for HUman Rights, Nepal.

Nepal’s apex National Human Rights Commission said the deliberate attack on a religious place was a calculated ploy to foment sectarian violence and prevent the election that is just 11 days away.

A little-known organisation, the Nepal Defence Army (NDA), claimed responsibility for the attacks.

In the past, the NDA had boasted of grooming suicide bombers who would be unleashed to fight for a Hindu kingdom in Nepal.

Nepal, once the world’s only Hindu kingdom, became secular two years ago. Since then, sectarian violence has been creeping in.

A riot last year in Kapilavastu district in the Terai plains gave the Maoists an excuse to walk out of the government and force a postponement of the election.

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