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Nepal's royal family slain in palace 'massacre'

Shocked Nepalese gathered outside the royal pace Saturday morning as news of the shootings spread  

KATHMANDU, Nepal -- Nepal's crown prince has shot and killed his parents the king and queen and several other members of the royal family before killing himself.

The number of dead has not yet been confirmed but Interior Minister Ram Chandra Poudel told Reuters Crown Prince Dipendra killed nine members of his family before turning the gun on himself.

Senior military officials told the Associated Press Crown Prince Dipendra, 29, killed King Birendra and Queen Aiswarya, his brother, Prince Nirajan, 22, and sister, 24-year-old Princess Shruti.

  • KING BIRENDRA, 55 - Monarch since 1972 (dead)
  • QUEEN AISWARYA, 51 - (dead)
  • PRINCE NIRAJAN, 22 - Younger brother of the crown prince (dead)
  • PRINCESS SHRUTI, 24 - (dead)
  • CROWN PRINCE DIPENDRA, 29 - Heir to the throne (died in hospital)
  • PRINCE GYANENDRA, c. 50 Next in line to the throne (survives)

Nepalese authorities said the 29-year-old, Eton educated, crown prince had long been at odds with his mother over his choice of a bride.

According to reports the royal family had gathered Friday night for a large family meeting to discuss his marriage.

Sources told CNN that the crown prince, clad in military fatigues, entered a sitting room of the royal palace at about 2240 local time on Friday and opened fire with an automatic rifle.

Unconfirmed reports said the crown prince wished to marry the daughter of a former government minister but the queen had objected.

According to the Nepali Times Crown Prince Dipendra died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a military hospital early Saturday morning.

Also killed were King Birendra's sisters Princesses Shrada and Shanti and his brother-in-law Kumar Khadga.

Another member of the royal family, Prince Dhirendra, was critically wounded

Authorities dispatched a helicopter to bring King Birendra's brother, Prince Gyanendra, who is expected to succeed the throne, back to the capital.

Nation shocked

CNN's Kasar Naji reports on Nepal's royal massacre

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Kathmandu, the capital of 1.5 million, awoke Saturday to news of the palace massacre with thousands of residents keen for more news gathering outside the palace grounds.

Armed police in riot gear moved around the perimeters of the modern Narayanhiti Palace to push back the crowds.

"This is unbelievable . . . one day you hear that the crown prince is getting married soon and the next day he goes on to a shooting rampage and kills everyone in the family," said Shreeram Shrestha, who had rushed to the palace after hearing the news.

"Shocking is an understatement, we have been orphaned by this loss," said another city resident.

Maoist insurgency

Nepal royals
King Birendra and Queen Aiswarya had reportedly gathered a meeting of the royal family to discuss the crown prince's marriage  

Birendra, 55, became Nepal's head of state in 1972 reigning for almost two decades as an absolute monarch.

In 1990, he turned over government to a multi-party democracy that has since struggled with a fractured parliament, a frail economy and a long-running Maoist insurgency.

The shootings come at a time of major political instability.

Opposition parties have been demanding Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's resignation for the government's alleged role in a bribery scandal and for not tackling the insurgency.

The country was shut down for three days earlier this week by opposition parties pressing for his resignation.

Parliament was stalled the entire winter session earlier this year and street protests have been held regularly.

In New York late Friday, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan's office issued a statement saying Annan was "profoundly shocked" by news of the killings.

Annan "…is deeply saddened by this tragedy and extends his heartfelt condolences to the people of Nepal and calls for calm and stability in this difficult period," the statement said.

• Nepal

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