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Police detains hundreds of anti-monarch protesters in Nepal

Police detains hundreds of anti-monarch protesters in Nepal

KATMANDU, Nepal — Baton-wielding police beat protesters and arrested hundreds Monday during nationwide rallies against the king's emergency rule, while communist rebels torched buses and threatened to step up attacks against the government.

The demonstrations coincided with Monday's U.N. Human Rights Conference in Geneva, which was expected to criticize King Gyanendra's power grab of Feb. 1, when he imposed emergency rule and suspended civil liberties.

India, Britain, the United States and other governments denounced the takeover and several donor nations cut aid or threatened to do so unless democracy is restored. Nepal needs foreign aid to fight both the insurgents and widespread poverty.

Police on Monday clubbed demonstrators in at least two southern towns, injuring at least nine people. Some 300 people were reported detained nationwide, including dozens in the capital, Katmandu, where protesters waved the red and white flags of the Nepali Congress Party — the nation's largest.

"We want democracy, we want freedom," demonstrators chanted.

"We will continue our protests until we restore democracy in Nepal," said detained activist Bhupendra Thapa.

Most of the arrests were reported in the south, where police broke up several protests, police and party officials said. About 120 activists were detained in Janakpur, 150 miles southeast of Katmandu.

Police have detained hundreds since the royal takeover. With many of their leaders under detention, political parties have found it difficult to mobilize against the king.

Meanwhile, Maoist rebels torched at least four buses Monday near Itahari, 310 miles west of Katmandu, to enforce a strike in the area. No one was hurt.

The rebels' elusive leader announced last weekend that his forces would step up attacks and block roads starting Monday, culminating in a 10-day nationwide strike, beginning April 1.

"Our party has announced a mass mobilization of our activists to step up military offensives, enforce strikes and blockades," rebel chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal said in the statement sent to newspaper offices.

The rebel leader, also known as Prachanda, offered to help the political parties in their campaign against the monarch. But a spokesman for the alliance of Nepal's major parties rejected the offer, citing the rebels' use of violence.

Gyanendra said he seized power because political parties and their successive governments had failed to counter the rebels, who have been fighting since 1996 to establish a communist state. The insurgency, which the rebels say is inspired by Chinese revolutionary Mao Zedong, has claimed more than 10,500 lives.

Copyright © 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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