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250 Professors Arrested During Nepalese Protests

AP | April 19 2006

Police arrested some 250 university professors Wednesday for demonstrating against Nepal's king in defiance of a curfew imposed to quell pro-democracy protests that have plunged the Himalayan country into crisis.

The royal government imposed the curfew in the western resort town of Pokhara, a day after thousands of protesters clashed with police. State-run Radio Nepal said anyone violating the daylong curfew would be shot.

Elsewhere Wednesday, protests erupted in a southwestern town where a woman died after being hit by a tear gas shell a day earlier, an official said. She was the sixth person to be killed by security forces in two weeks of violent protests to against King Gyanendra's rule.

The crisis began April 6 when an opposition alliance launched a general strike to demand the king restore democracy. Gyanendra seized direct power last year, arguing the move was needed to restore political order and crush a Maoist insurgency that has left nearly 13,000 people dead.

In Pokhara, the professors were rallying peacefully when police stopped them, loaded them into trucks and drove them to detention centers, said Krishna Adhikari, who was among the professors arrested. He said police did not open fire despite the order to shoot curfew violators.

"We condemn the police breaking our peaceful rally," Adhikari said by cellular phone from the detention center.

The woman who died was among thousands of protesters who stormed a monument being built for King Gyanendra in the town of Nepalgunj. She died in a hospital Tuesday evening, said Binod Adhikari, the chief government administrator in the area.

Adhikari said security forces were compelled to use some force to bring the situation under control. Two policemen were also critically hurt in the clash.

He said there were fresh protests Wednesday to protest the woman's death.

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan renewed U.S. appeals on Gyanendra to restore democracy, warning the unrest in the country "will only worsen."

"Arrests and violence accompanying the pro-democracy demonstrations only add to the insecurity and compound the serious problem facing Nepal," he told reporters.

On Tuesday, Nepal's royal government summoned U.S. Ambassador James Moriarty to protest comments the envoy has made on the crisis.

The strike has forced shops to close and vehicles to stay off the streets for 14 straight days in the Himalayan kingdom, causing shortages of food and other necessities in the capital, Katmandu.

Drivers on Wednesday lined up at gas stations in the city, and shoppers searched for cooking gas after armored military vehicles escorted a convoy carrying the capital's first supplies since the unrest began.

Twenty-three trucks and buses on Tuesday brought in badly needed salt, bananas, potatoes and onions, as well as kerosene and gasoline.

In a sign that government workers have also begun to publicly defy Gyanendra, 25 Home Ministry employees walked out of work Tuesday, chanting anti-king slogans. All were arrested, along with three journalists covering the protest, an official said on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

The strike and protests are the worst unrest Gyanendra has faced since his power grab. Although many of Nepal's 27 million people at first supporters his power seizure, an increasing number are frustrated by the intensifying insurgency and faltering economy.

 

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