FIGHTING INVOLVING THE MAOIST REBELS IN NEPAL
The Maoist rebels in Nepal — affiliated with the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (CNP(M)) — attacked police stations, assassinated landlords and bureaucrats, raided government offices, army camps and police posts and robbed agricultural banks. They stole weapons in their raids on police outposts, set off bombs in Kathmandu, bombed tax offices, extorted money from NGOs, smashed the kneecaps of suspected traitors with hammers, kidnaped and robbed foreigners, captured soldiers and held them hostage and placed bombs in buses and motorcycles. There were security alerts over concerns that the Maoist rebels might try to hijack or blow up a commercial jetliner.
In November 2001, a state of emergency was declared after more than 100 people were killed in four days of violence. King Gyanendra ordered the army to take direct action for the first time to crush the Maoist rebels. Many hundreds are killed in rebel and government operations in the following months. [Source: BBC]
Most fighting during the Nepalese Civil War occurred in rural areas and in western districts. Until early 2000, Nepalese police efforts against the CPN(M) were generally uncoordinated. The army became involved in February 2000 and began actively engaging the CPN(M) in November 2001. Government security forces were generally hobbled by a lack of funds, local support, and counterinsurgency experience. the mountainous, forested, generally roadless terrain favored the Maoists’ guerrilla tactics. [Source: Library of Congress, November 2005 **]
Human rights observers and foreign governments have suggested that some government efforts to address the conflict — including the suspension of civil liberties and elected government — have reduced the government’s popular legitimacy and thus have been counterproductive. The Maoists’ attacks on infrastructure reportedly have lowered their popular support, as have accusations of robbery, extortion, and forced recruiting. The CPN(M), however, claims such activities are either unauthorized actions committed by lower-level cadres or are justified to prevent the use of public resources to exploit Nepalese. Peace talks in 2001 and 2003 were unsuccessful. **
Indeed, unarmed civilians have been frequent victims. According to a Nepalese human rights organization, the Informal Service Sector Center, from February 13, 1996, to September 16, 2005, 12,809 persons were killed in the conflict, with 64 percent attributed to security forces, 36 percent to the CPN(M), and 82 percent of all conflict-related deaths occurring since 2002. Of the killings attributed to security forces, most were of actual or suspected members of the CPN(M) or political parties (65 percent) or agricultural workers (15.6 percent). Of the killings attributed to the Maoists, most were of police personnel (28.2 percent), agricultural workers (16.2 percent), army personnel (14.4 percent), or civil servants (11.6 percent). Additionally, 50,356 persons had been displaced by the conflict through 2004. However, these figures include only verified events; actual numbers may be higher. **
It was difficult to estimate the true number of deaths because both sides tended to underestimate their own dead and overestimate the number of deaths of their opponents. The Maoist rebels tended to pull their dead from the battlefield, making their number of dead particularly had to gauge. In a typical report the government claimed it killed 90 Maoist rebels as they attempted to launch a human wave attack on an army camps. In one series of attacks in May 2002, the government announced that it had killed 500 Maoist rebels while losing only three government soldiers.
Maoist Rebels and Foreigners
At Maoist rebel festivals banners were hung that read: ‘Down with American Imperialists and Indian Hegemonists’. The Maoists were on the United States’ list of banned terrorist organizations, although American officials had established contact with their political leaders, including Prachanda.
No tourists were killed by the Maoist rebels, but there were attacks involving foreign interests. In the fall of 2002, Maoist rebels killed to two Nepalese U.S. Embassy guards in separate attacks. In October 2003, rebels kidnapped two British army officials. The officials were trekking in a remote areas near Lekhail village, about 300 kilometers northwest of Kathmandu, and recruiting young Nepalese men for the Gurkas.
In August 2004, Maoist rebels threw bombs onto the tennis courts of the Soaltee Crown Plaza, a luxury hotel in Kathmandu. No one was hurt but the accident sent a chill through the foreign community. A number of foreign companies decided to close down their operations, at least temporarily.
The U.S. State Department reported: “ In 2003, the Department of State designated the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) as a Terrorist Organization under the “Terrorist Exclusion List”of the Immigration and Nationality Act and under Executive Order 13224. These two designations make Maoists excludable from entry into the United States and bar U.S. citizens from transactions such as contribution of funds, goods, or services to, or for the benefit of, the Maoists. [Source: U.S. State Department, Consular Information Sheet, January 8, 2008]
“Since the ceasefire in April 2006, hotels and businesses frequented by American citizens have been the target of extortion demands and, in some cases, have become the focus of demonstrations. In November 2006, resident Americans reported that they were told that they would have to house and feed Maoists intending to participate in rallies in Kathmandu. In a few cases, local Nepali staff of the American residents were threatened or beaten when they attempted to resist this demand. The discrepancy between the Maoists' publicly stated intentions and their behavior, combined with their consistent anti-American rhetoric, remains a serious concern.
Maoist Rebels and Foreigner Tourists
The Maoist rebels repeatedly said they would not attack tourists and reportedly were given instructions by their leaders not to attack foreigners, apparently in recognition of the fact that so many people in Nepal relied on tourism as a source of income. Krishna Bahadur Mahara, the No. 3 man in the Maoist rebel hierarchy, said: “As far as the tourism industry is concerned, we very mach. encourage it. This country needs tourism.”
The Maoist rebels said that foreign tourists are welcome as long as they make “donations’ when traveling through rebel-controlled territory. They typically politely asked trekkers who passed through areas they controlled for a donation and even provided a receipt. The donations ranged from a few dollars to more than $30.
One American trekking around Manaslu peak told the New York Times in 2003, “The Maoists gave us a letter to give to the porters at the next village. They wrote: ‘You are charging the foreigners too much.’...You see a lot of the wandering around with camouflage, with their red flags and slogans.”
Describing a visit by the Maoist rebels to the Pokhara Mountain Lodge in March 2001, Peter Popham wrote in the Independent, we "noticed the red bandanna over his face and a revolver in his hand...Within minutes the lodge's main hall was full of armed Maoists — young women fingering kurkuris...two or three men with primitive shotguns. None of them laid a finger on us, or stole so much as a rupee from us, But they kept us hostage for an hour and a half while they robbed the lodge of new year bonuses, then taking any other cash they could find, and the telescope on the veranda.”
Early Attacks by the Maoist Rebels
The Maoist rebels were initially most active in the Dailekh, Rolpa, Dolpa, Ramechhao districts. Later the struck almost everywhere: The Rukun district (600 kilometers west of Kathmandu) saw a lot of activity.
In the early stages of their campaign the Maoist rebels favored attacks on police camps. These attacks served two primary purposes: 1) they drove the terrorized police and army out of the camps and the region where the camps was located, allowing the rebels to roam freely there; 2) and it allowed the rebels to seize weapons in the camps.
In April 2001, more than 70 police were killed in clashes with Maoist rebels. At least 37 people were killed in a single attack at a police outpost by 500 guerrillas, armed with bombs and automatic weapons, in Dailekh district (530 kilometers west of Kathmandu) at the cost of only a few Maoist rebels. Around the same time on the other side of the country five policemen died in a two-hour gun fight with Maoist rebels in Dolaka (190 kilometers east of Kathmandu).
Later the Maoist rebels favored their trademark ambushes and hit and run attacks. These acts often were aimed at vehicles carrying soldiers and involved stopping the vehicle somehow — with a road block, mine or explosion — and opening fire on the vehicle after it stopped.
In the early attacks the Maoist rebels used World War II-vintage rifles and even sticks and rocks. Their attacks were more effective and daring after they began using the rocket launchers and automatic weapons that they took from police and army camps during their raids.
Heavy Fighting with the Maoist Rebels in the Early 2000s
The killing of King Birendra and his family in June 2001 and the chaos that followed worked to the Maoist rebels’ advantage. The rebels blamed the new king, King Gyanendra, for having a hand in the king’s death. A brief cease fire and peace talks started in July, 2001. But not long after that the Maoist rebels began stepping up their attacks.
The attacks increased in November 2001 after the Maoist rebels walked out of the peace talks. King Gyanendra declared a state of emergency after several hundred people were killed in fighting around the town of Salleri in the Solukhumbi district, 280 kilometers northeast of Kathmandu. The rebels launched a series of deadly attacks on security forces, some of them featuring human wave attacks. By some counts 2,000 people were killed in a six month period and 4,700 were killed in all of 2002.
In February 2002, more than 2,000 Maoist rebels attacked an army garrison, killing 141 police officers, army soldiers and civilians in attacks on district headquarters and a nearby airport in Mangalsen district, 600 kilometers west of Kathmandu. Among he dead were 76 police officers, 48 soldiers, an intelligence officer and four civilians. An estimated 50 rebels were killed. Many of the victims had been rounded up after their barracks were set on fire and shot execution style at close range. The garrison commander was beheaded and quartered, his head, arms and leg stuffed in a sleeping bag. Three upper caste members were butchered with axes.
The rebels used rockets and mortars in the attack. The broke into a prison and freed 16 comrades, blew open a bank and made off with $263,000, stole weapons and ammunition and took over the headquarters but were then driven away by reinforcements of paratroopers. A similar attack on a headquarters and airport in Achham district, 350 kilometers west of Kathmandu, the same month, left 167 dead. Most of the victims were security officers.
Heavy Fighting with the Maoist Rebels in Dang and Rolpo in Early 2000s
In April 2002, 200 policemen and Maoist rebels were killed in heavy fighting in the Western Dang district, 450 kilometers southwest of Kathmandu. Dozens of police were forced to strip before being executed. Some were beheaded. One police officer told Reuters, “Bodies are scattered around the jungle, the fields and the river banks...The entire area is flooded with vultures flying over looking for bodies.
The rebels attacked five police stations simultaneously in the Dang district along the main east-west highway. They overran two police stations in Dang: one in Satbariya and another in Lamahl and kept reenforcements from arriving by felling huge trees to block the roads. A fierce battle in Dang occurred at home of the Interior Security Minster. A unit of 120 paramilitary soldiers were unable to fend off an attack involving thousands of rebels. One police official told AP, the Maoist rebels “are so ferocious that they killed officers...even after they surrendered. They were stripped naked, then paraded, and finally killed with khurkis [traditionally Nepali knives].”
In May 2002, there was fierce fighting in Rolpa district, 350 kilometers west of Kathmandu, the region where the Maoist rebel movement began. Fighting around the town of Gam left hundreds dead. The government claimed it had killed more than 500 Maoist rebels while losing only three soldiers during an attack was aimed at rebel hideouts and training camps around Lisne in the Rolpa district. Government forces are believed to have used helicopter gunships in the attacks,. The same month Prime Minister Deuba visited the United States to seek military aid and parliament was dissolved.
Luke Harding wrote in The Guardian: “In one of their most bloody encounters so far, troops dropped from military helicopters stormed a rebel training center and hideout near the Maoist stronghold of Rolpa. 'It is estimated that up to 350 terrorists may have died in the forceful action of our security forces,' officials said.” The attack “took place when government troops apparently spotted a high-level meeting at the training base and pounded it from attack helicopters. 'Soldiers are surrounding the hill-top jungle site and have blocked all exits,' a Home Ministry official said. Two soldiers were killed in the operation. Another 40 insurgents were gunned down in Doti, 90 miles away, they added.” [Source: Luke Harding, The Guardian, May 5, 2002]
In September 2002, 49 soldiers and policemen were killed in one day of fighting. The next day 65 soldiers and policemen were killed in an attack in Sandhikara, about 300 kilometers west of Kathmandu, in a midnight assault by Maoist rebels on a police station and army base. .
Maoist Human Wave and Human Shield Attacks
The Maoist rebels employed human wave attacks. In one such attack the government claimed it killed 90 Maoist rebels as they attempted to launch a human wave attack on army camps. After one such raid in 2001, a defense official told Reuters. “The rebels came in the hundreds in human waves attacking the camp...Around 90 rebels were killed in the counter attack...They are running helter skelter.”
Describing one human wave attack, a police offers who survived an attacked that left 32 of his dead told Reuters, “they came in the hundreds and they asked local villagers, including women and children, to accompany them as human shields.”
The survivor of another attacks that left almost a hundred Maoist rebels dead told the New York Times, “When one Maoist was killed, another came forward. They were there to kill or die.” Several thousand took part in the attack in Satbariya. They were able to take over a garrison when the soldiers there ran out of ammunition. Bodies of rebels were scattered in a lentil field a week after the attack.
Often times the Maoist rebels used civilians as human shields. A senior Royal Nepalese Army officer told AP, “Civilians have been forced to lead the charge, prodded by hardcore Maoist fighters who are in the back. We have to gun down everyone. We cannot distinguish between the Maoists and the villagers.” The Maoist rebels used the human shield tactic during heavy fighting in 2002 but didn’t use it after that.
Terrorist-Style Attacks By Maoist Insurgency in Early 2000s
In February 2001, Maoist rebels pulled two men from a political procession and beheaded them in front of hundred of onlookers. They were probably singled out because they carried Nepali Congress flags. A few days later a local official was kidnaped and tied to a tree and hacked to death.
The Maoist rebels set off a number of bombs. Their bombs tended to be smaller and less sophisticated than those used by Al-Qaida groups and they didn’t use suicide bombers. Generally only a few people were killed or injured. In April 2002, the rebels blew up Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s childhood home. In May 2002, they burned down a Sanskrit university in western Nepal.
The Maoist rebels set off a number of bombs in Kathmandu. In December 2001, they blew up a carpet shop in Kathmandu. In February 2002, they bombed a tax office in Kathmandu, killing one. In April 2002, they bombed a school, killing three. One diplomat told the Independent, “They are experts in intimidation. All it takes is one bomb in a bus stop over to terrorize one half of the city, then another bomb somewhere else to terrify the other half.”
In January 2003, the head of Nepal’s armed police, his wife and a bodyguard were shot and killed as they took a walk in a Kathmandu suburb. The three victims were shot at close range by three assailants. The Maoist rebels were blamed.
Attacks By Maoist Insurgency in the Mid 2000s
Attacks on police stations and other government facilities continued into 2003. A typical attack occurred in western Nepal and left three police officers and 35 Maoist rebels dead but resulted in the police abandoning the position and the rebels gaining control of the region.
In March 2004, the government claimed that Nepalese soldiers killed 500 Maoist rebels in a 12 hour battle, described as the bloodiest since the conflict began in 1996. The battle began when the rebels launched a coordinated attack with raids on a state bank, jail and government buildings in Beni, a district capital in the west. The army quickly counterattacked with reenforcements and nighttime-flying helicopters.
In April 2004, nine Nepalese police were killed when hundred of Maoist rebels stormed a police post in the village of Yadukawa, 300 kilometers east of Kathmandu. By some accounts 500 rebels surrounded the post and fired on it. The battle lasted for two or three hours. The rebels cut phone and electric lines to the village and set up road blocks to stop reinforcements from coming in.
In January 2005, the government claimed in killed 300 Maoist rebels in a three-hour attack and gun battle on a rebel hideout in Kailali in western Nepal. Soldiers attacked after they were given a tip that the rebels were amassing for a major attack themselves.
Terrorist-Style Attacks By Maoist Insurgency in the Mid 2000s
In September 2003, Maoist rebels detonated bombs in five government offices in Kathmandu, killing a 10-year-old boy and injuring seven other people. The targets included land revenue, Department of Motor Vehicles and Department of Labor offices. The rebels also killed a journalist who worked for the government news service. He was taken out back of a school where he worked part time and was tied up and had his throat slashed.
In March 2004, the rebels were blamed for bomb that went off in a parked bus in Kathmandu — injuring three — and a pair of explosions at city council offices, injuring three others. In June 2004, Maoist rebels were blamed for a bus explosion in Kathmandu that injured 22 people. At around the same time they stopped a school bus, ordered all the students to get off and set the bus on fire.
In September 2004, Maoist rebels detonated a bomb at a checkpoint in southern Nepal near the town of Bhirahawa (about 280 kilometers southwest of Kathmandu), killing two policemen at the checkpoint and injuring eight civilians who were in a bus waiting at the checkpoint. In November 2004, a bomb exploded at a Kathmandu mall, injuring 38.
Ambush-Style Attacks By Maoist Insurgency in the Mid 2000s
In June 2004, Maoist rebels ambushed a police truck in southwestern Nepal, killing 14 officers and four civilians, near Dhankhola village about 400 kilometers southwest of Kathmandu. The truck was stopped by a land mine and then showered with rebel gunfire. The four civilians were in a bus behind the police truck.
In July 2004, Maoist rebels ambushed a police van in southern Nepal, killing 12 officers and one civilian, near the town of Birgunj near the Indian border. The rebels hit the vehicle with an explosive and then opened fire on it with automatic weapons killing everyone. The police were returning from an investigation. The civilian was believed to be a police informant.
In December 2004, Maoist rebels ambushed an army patrol in Sindhupalchowk district, a Maoist stronghold 100 kilometers east of Kathmandu, killing 10. Around 70 people were killed in the week before a January 2005 deadline set by the government to begin talks. Rebels also set off bombs at the home of the daughter of a former prime minister and an election office.
In January 2005, 26 people, including 20 soldiers, were killed in an ambush by Maoist rebels in Ilam, a tea-growing region 680 kilometers east of Kathmandu. The soldiers had stepped our of their vehicles to clear a road block set up by the rebels, who opened fire on them.
In June 2005, the Maoist rebels carried out a landmine attack on a bus that killed 38 passengers, including women and children. A statement by the rebels said the attack was "a grave mistake.” The landmine targeted security personnel not civilains. Seventy-two people were injured when the bus laden with 150 people hit the mine in the south central district of Chitwan. [Source: Deutsche Presse Agentur, June 7, 2005]
Deutsche Presse Agentur reported: “The Maoists said that the attack had been contrary to "party policy'' and that they accepted self-criticism for the loss of civilian lives. The statement said the Maoist fighters involved and the party members coordinating the attack were "suspended'' and that the incident would be "investigated and the findings made public''.It was not the policy of the extremist left party to target innocent civilians and there was no change in that policy, the statement said. Observers had anticipated such a statement. Subodh Pyakurel, chairman of the rights body Informal Sector Services Center, said: "Even if there were 100 security personnel riding the bus, the Maoists have no right to attack the bus and kill innocent civilians.''
Blockade by Maoist Insurgency in 2004
In August 2004, Maoist rebels imposed a blockade based almost totally on threats. So feared were they that they were able to impose a blockade with no road blocks other than a few downed trees on some road.s The Maoist rebels didn’t even show themselves. Their threats of attacks were enough to make the blockade work. People were afraid to drive and traffic was dramatically reduced.
The blockade cut Kathmandu off from the rest of the country. It was so effective food price soared and fuel was rationed and a only a few weeks of supplies remained. A couple of small bombs were set off in Kathmandu (one was set off at a hotel that refused to comply with the blockade). The rebels imposed the blockade to demand an investigation into alleged killing of Maoist comrades and the release of political prisoners and information on missing guerillas.
The blockade was lifted by the rebels after a week It was ended after the rebels made their point. Analysts said they didn’t want to create a real hardship that would make them unpopular. They just wanted to show their power. The threat of force was enough to make the blockade effective. One Western diplomat told Reuters, “It didn’t take a single Maoist to enforce it, just a call was enough. This is a campaign of fear that is working every time.”
In December 2004, Maoist rebels imposed another blockade The government invoked anti-hoarding and price-control laws to slow rises in food and fuel prices and prevent price gouging, The blockade was similar to the other one and was imposed to protest the disappearance of militants in army detention. Some mines were laid on main roads. and some bombs were set off in Kathmandu. There was no formal blockade or road blocks other than a few downed trees but the rebels threatened to attack anybody that they saw on the roads. People were afraid to go anywhere that involved road travel and traffic was dramatically reduced.
Attacks After King Gyanendra Power Grab in 2005
The Maoist rebels responded to King Gyanendra’s power grab in February 2005 with a new wave of attacks, general strikes and blockades. A lot fo fighting took place along the roads as the Maoist rebels tried to disrupt traffic and set up blockades and the government security forces tried to stop them. The tactic was effective occupying soldiers so they couldn’t go after the rebels.
The Maoist rebels organized another blockade in February 2005. This one lasted for two weeks and was organized to protest the seizure of power by the king. The rebels used crude bombs, boulders and mines to block roads. This time stores were well stocked with extra supplies and there weren’t any serious shortages. Military vehicles accompanied convoys that brought fuel and supplies to the city. More than a dozen people were killed in violence associated with blockade,
In February 2005, dozens of bombs were set off west of Kathmandu, striking schools, government buildings and police stations. Several bombs went off in Nepalgunj, a major town 500 kilometers west of Kathmandu. Three people were injured by a bomb set off at a medical college there. Students showed at school and found bombs in the classrooms. Twelve rebels were killed in a counterattacked after an ambush on an army patrol.
Also in February 2005, rebels used a fake wedding procession to attack police. Associated Press reported: “A group of 300 Communist rebels feigned a wedding procession to launch a surprise attack on the police, leaving an officer dead and five seriously wounded in southern Nepal, a police official said. The rebels got close to the police post last evening while pretending to be a wedding party, then attacked in Mahendranagar town, about 300 kilometers south-east of the capital, Kathmandu. A 30 minute gun battle ensued. When soldier reached them the attackers fled, carrying away their wounded. One policeman was killed and five in critical condition were flown to Kathmandu.” [Source: Associated Press, February 20, 2005]
In April 2005, the Maoist rebels called a general strike to protest the seizure of power by the king. A land mine exploded under a bus — killing three and injuring 27 — that had defied the general strike in Rahutahatm about 250 kilometers south of Kathmandu. The same month, 18 Maoist rebels were killed and nine Nepalese soldiers were wounded in an attack on a base in Khara in Rukum district, 550 kilometers west of Kathmandu. Near the Indian border there were clashed between Maoist rebels and villagers after two villagers were abducted by the rebels. Angry villagers retaliated against Maoist sympathizers, burning more than 500 homes and forcing thousands of people to flee across the Indian border.
Dozens Killed in Battles with Maoist Rebels in Western Nepal
In August 2005, the Nepalese Army accused Maoist rebels of executing 40 soldiers in the deadliest incident since King Gyanendra seized power. AFP reported: “ The army said its soldiers had been lined up and shot in the head after a battle which raged in the western district of Kalikot throughout Sunday night, bringing the known death toll from the clash to 66, with 76 more soldiers missing. "The terrorists inhumanely killed 40 security men," an army statement said, adding "by lining them up and shooting them in their heads." The statement also said that some of the soldiers' bodies had been mutilated. [Source: AFP, August 10, 2005]
“The rebels, who said 26 of their fighters had been killed, claimed Monday that they had killed 159 soldiers. The Nepal government said late Tuesday via state television that 300 rebels had died in the assault. The claims could not immediately be verified, but the acknowledged death toll of 40 soldiers is the highest since the king seized power in February. Since then, analysts say, the military appears to have made little headway against the rebels. The American ambassador to Nepal, James F. Moriarty, said: "The continuing divisions between the royal palace and the political parties aid only the Maoist rebels and their plan to turn Nepal into a brutal and anachronistic state."
“The soldiers were stationed at the camp to protect workers building a section of highway between the western towns of Surkhet and Jumla. It was the first Maoist claim of responsibility for a major attack since a bus bombing in June that killed 36 people. The detailed claims of the rebels were rejected by the military. "We deny the terrorists' claims of killing 159 soldiers in western Nepal," said an army spokesman, Brig. Gen. Dipak Gurung. The Himalayan Times said 1,400 rebels had been involved in the Kalikot attack. The army could not confirm the figure, but an official said that "a fairly large number of rebels" had taken part.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Nepal Tourism Board (ntb.gov.np), Nepal Government National Portal (nepal.gov.np), The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Wikipedia and various books, websites and other publications.
Last updated February 2022