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NEWS & COMMENTARY 2008 SPEAKERS 2007 2006 2005

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Nepal Rebels Reveal Strength for First Time

Nepal’s Maoist rebels have for the first time revealed the strength of their forces, saying they have around 36,000 soldiers and 10,000 weapons, a senior commander told AFP July 11.

”Our fighters number around 36,000. They are scattered across the country and will remain under the supervision of the United Nations once we reach an agreement,” said Ananta, military leader of Nepal’s central region.

The rebels and new government have observed a ceasefire for the last two months as part of a plan to share power.

The rebels and political parties worked together against King Gyanendra after he sacked the cabinet in February 2005 and seized absolute power.

After weeks of mass protests the king backed down in April and parliament was reinstated and the government and rebels agreed in May to draft an interim
constitution to share power before constituent assembly elections are held.

Last week the government wrote to the United Nations asking for assistance in arms management of the rebels and the 90,000-strong Nepal Army.

”We have 10,000 weapons including mortars and rifles... most of them were seized from security forces during battles,” said Ananta, who goes by only one name.

The Maoist commander said that the People’s Liberation Army soldiers will be kept in seven divisions in different parts the country where they will undergo regular exercise and military training.

”Our army will not violate the ceasefire code of conduct by displaying weapons in public areas,” said the rebel commander.

Since the launching of the “people’s war” in 1996, at least 12,500 people including Maoist rebels, security personnel and civilians have been killed.
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