Woman arrested for Nepal church blast

June 2nd, 2009 - 7:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, June 2 (IANS) Nepal police Tuesday said they had made a breakthrough in investigating the deadly blast that ripped through the prayer hall of one of the oldest Catholic churches in the country a week ago, killing three women and injuring at least 14 others.
A 27-year-old married woman, whose name was given as Sita Shrestha nee Thapa, has been arrested in connection with the explosion at the Assumption Church in Lalitpur district May 23, Kathmandu police said at a press conference.

However, the woman was not produced at the press conference. Only her photographs were shown to journalists.

Police said she was arrested from the Baneshwor area of the capital that leads to the airport.

She was said to be associated with several organisations, including one called the Hindu Rashtra Bachao Samiti, a little known outfit that claims to work for the restoration of Hinduism as the state religion in Nepal that last year officially became a secular republic from being the world’s only Hindu kingdom.

Police also said a hunt was on for Ram Prasad Mainali, a Hindu fanatic from Morang district in eastern Nepal, who heads a militant organisation called the Nepal Defence Army (NDA).

The NDA had claimed responsibility for the blast in the church during prayer, killing a 15-year-old Indian schoolgirl, Celeste Joseph, her mother Buddha Laxmi Joseph, and a 19-year-old newly married Indian woman, Dipa Patrick.

According to eyewitnesses, a woman came to the prayer hall, kept her hand bag under one of the cushions on the floor where the devotees sat, and then went out, saying she needed to go to the toilet. The bomb was in the bag.

In the past, the NDA bombed two mosques in southern Nepal and church in the east, killing two and injuring several people at prayer.

The NDA is also said to be issuing threats to the Christians in Kathmandu valley, asking them to leave the country.

Mainali was in the past arrested by police for possessing bomb making equipment but was released on bail whereafter he promptly went underground.

The news of the arrest was treated with scepticism by the Catholic community of Kathmandu who were holding an emergency meeting in the evening to discuss security measures.

“We hope she is one of the culprits and not a scapegoat,” said an Assumption Church official who declined to be named.

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