A bomb exploded in front of the headquarters of Nepal's monopoly oil importer Monday, killing three people and injuring five in the capital's first major attack in four years, police said. The government increased security in response.
Home Minister Bijaya Gachchedar said a little-known group calling itself United Ethnic Liberation Front took responsibility for the bombing. Several ethnic groups from southern Nepal have called for more automony in their regions, and some claim to be armed and threaten violence.
An emergency meeting of the security forces was called and security has been heightened, Gachchedar said.
The Babarmahal district in central Katmandu has a number of government offices and is generally guarded by both police and soldiers and crowded with government workers and visitors. It is also near the fortified Singhadurbar complex housing the prime minister's office and key ministries.
The blast damaged motorcycles and the front gate for the Nepal Oil Corporation, which has been criticized recently for increasing prices of gasoline, diesel and cooking gas.
Two people died at the scene and one succumbed to injuries at the hospital, police officer Devendra Subedi said.
Nepal Oil Corporation has the monopoly to import and distribute oil products in Nepal. Fuel shortages have been regular for the past few months. People have been forced to wait for hours for rationed gasoline and diesel for vehicles and or to buy cooking gas in the black market.
Nepal has been trying since 2008 to draft a constitution, but the effort has been stymied by political differences and debate over how much power the federal government should have.
Minority ethnic groups want the document to give more automony to local regions. Last year, police accused minority groups in southern Nepal of detonating bombs while demanding an autonomous region.
The government has held talks with these groups and promised to consider their demands. However, several groups claim to fight for the rights of ethnic populations in southern Nepal.