Violence mars historic Nepal polls

April 10th, 2008 - 12:04 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, April 10 (IANS) Violence erupted in several constituencies within hours of polling beginning in Nepal Thursday, marring the exercise regarded as a key step to restoring peace and stability in a nation racked by a decade-old communist insurgency. A veteran politician from Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s ruling Nepali Congress party was said to have survived an attempt on her life while clashes between the party and its two main rivals, the Maoists and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), led to polling being stopped in several booths.

Leela Koirala, widow of Koirala’s cousin Saroj Koirala, who was assassinated during the absolute rule of the Shah kings, was said to have survived a gun attack in Dhanusha district in the Terai plains, regarded as one of the most sensitive areas.

Leela is contesting from the troubled district where four armed underground outfits have called an indefinite shutdown in a bid to sabotage Thursday’s election.

Polling was stopped in three centres in Meghauli village in Chitwan district, where Maoist supremo Prachanda is camping with his family to cast his vote after 28 years.

Clashes broke out between the Maoists and Koirala’s Nepali Congress, resulting in the three booths being ransacked and set on fire.

In Mahottari district in the plains, the Nepali Congress fought with the UML, resulting in polling being stopped in the Suga centre. Police had to resort to firing in the air to bring the situation under control, the home ministry said.

In Biratnagar town, Koirala’s constituency, where the octogenarian premier had been among the first ones to cast his vote, the army defused a bomb left inside a polling booth.

Two explosions were reported from two booths in Panchthar. Five people were caught with crude bombs in Saptari district, also in the Terai belt.

In Rautahat district, another volatile district in the plains, police detained Maoist candidate Prabhu Shah after he reportedly misbehaved with poll officials.

In Doramba village in Ramechhap, notorious for the massacre of Maoists by the army during an earlier period of ceasefire, the former rebels were said to have been obstructing supporters of rival parties from casting their votes.

In Dolakha district in north Nepal, near the border with Tibet, Nepali Congress cadres were said to be obstructing voters.

The twice-postponed election began at 7 a.m. Thursday under the shadow of violence.

Nine people, mostly Maoists, died in pre-poll violence that flared up Tuesday and continued.

The constituent assembly election, Nepal’s first national poll in almost a decade, has been one of the most violent with nearly 30 people having been killed.

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