Maoist-called strike cripples life in Nepal

AP News
Posted: Dec 20, 2009 5:23 AM

Supporters of Nepal's former Maoist rebels clashed with riot police, attacked vehicles, forced shops to close and blocked highways across the country Sunday to enforce a general strike called to protest the president.

The Maoists called the three-day strike to protest President Ram Baran Yadav, whom they accuse of acting unconstitutionally after he overturned the previous government's decision to fire the army chief.

Police spokesman Bigyanraj Sharma said 67 protesters were arrested.

Maoist supporters clashed with police in two separate locations in the capital, Katmandu.

The protesters blocked the main streets in the city and threw stones at officers, who retaliated by firing tear gas and beating them with bamboo batons.

Six officers were injured, including one who was in critical condition with head injuries, Sharma said. About two dozen protesters were injured.

Those arrested were accused of vandalizing vehicles that took to the streets and defied the general strike, which began Sunday, Sharma said.

Political tensions have been high in Nepal since a Maoist-led government resigned in May amid the dispute with Yadav over the army chief's refusal to incorporate former Maoist rebels fighters into the military. Since then, the former rebels have protested the president in the streets and in parliament.

The Maoists gave up their armed revolt in 2006 to join a peace process. They have since confined their fighters in U.N.-monitored camps and joined mainstream politics. They contested elections last year and won the most seats in parliament.