Kathmandu serial blasts mastermind dies in police ‘encounter’

August 31st, 2008 - 1:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Aug 31 (IANS) The chief of a shadowy underground outfit who had claimed planning the serial blasts in Kathmandu last year that killed three women and triggered a massive security alert was gunned down with his bodyguard in an “encounter” with police.Kailash Sahani, who became known as “Mr John” in September 2007 when he used that alias to call up newspaper offices and claim responsibility for three blasts, was killed early Saturday in a culvert in Rautahat district while planning fresh explosions to celebrate the anniversary of the first bombings, the police said.

Sahani headed the Terai Army, a little-known underground outfit that was more criminal than political and suspected to be behind several more explosions, murders, robberies and extortion in the Terai plains along the India-Nepal border.

This is the first time that the chief of any underground organisation was killed by Nepal police.

Nepal’s Maoist party, now heading the government, fought a 10-year war against the state during which top leaders, including its chief Prachanda, carried a bounty on their heads. But they never lost any top leader.

On Sep 2, 2007, three bombs went off near simultaneously in Kathmandu, including one in a bus, killing a housewife and two school students. The attacks created panic and raised fears about the possibility of holding the elections.

The Terai Army had also claimed responsibility for a fire in a crowded bus in Bara district in southern Nepal in which killed seven passengers and a blast at a bus stand in Rautahat’s Chandranigahapur this year in which two people died.

“Mr John”, a farmer’s son who dropped out of school at the age of five, headed the most wanted list compiled by Nepal police. However, it was not known if any political force was behind the organisation that of late was seeking to expand its network in other Terai districts.

After a failed attack by the Terai Army on a policeman this month, the police arrested Sahani’s uncle, who told them that Sahani would be going to his home in Raghunathpur village with his bodyguard Mahanta Sahani to plan fresh attacks Tuesday.

Police said when a 35-member team headed by inspector Shyam Adhikari surrounded the house, the duo fired at the police and fled. They were intercepted and in an ensuing gunfire both the fugitives were killed.

Police recovered an American-made sophisticated gun from the dead man and several rounds of ammunition.

The news of Sahani’s death created a ripple in Rautahat, with relieved villagers trooping to the battle scene to view his body and make sure he was dead.

Reacting to the deaths, the Terai Army has called an indefinite shutdown in Rautahat.

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