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Katmandu calm after inquiry blames prince

By staff and wire reports

KATMANDU, Nepal -- Nepal's capital Katmandu is calm after officials confirmed what most locals had already suspected -- that most of their beloved royal family had been gunned down by one of their own.

Newspapers are awash with coverage of the 250-page official report of an inquiry set up to investigate the shooting deaths of ten members of the Nepalese royal family, including King Birendra, two weeks ago.

The official conclusion confirmed reports that had been filtering out since the tragedy occurred. It said Crown Prince Dipendra, fueled by alcohol and drugs, massacred his family before turning one of his guns on himself.

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As he lay in a coma, the Crown Prince was named king, despite being the prime suspect in the killings. His reign ended when he died of his self-inflicted injuries three days after the massacre.

The official report on the shootings, broken to an anxious nation on Thursday night, ended nearly two weeks of rumor and uncertainty over the affair.

"Well if that's what they say then it must be true," Ranji Balup told Reuters as he prepared to open his shop. "I just hope things can return to normal now."

Calm in Katmandu

On the streets of the capital on Friday, people went about thier business normally. Most had heard Thursday night's broadcast.

Nepal's newspapers, which have tiptoed in their coverage of the crisis so far, went to town on the affair on Friday.

"Report blames Dipendra for palace shootings," said the headline of the English language Kathmandu Post.

"Mixture of lethal weapons and drugs caused massacre," said another newspaper.

Katmandu had been rocked by violent protests in the days after the massacre, as frustrated Nepalis refused to believe the initial palace explanation that the massacre was the result of an accidental "explosion" of a machine gun.

Conspiracy theories abounded, and thousands of demonstrators demanded to be told exactly how their popular king and his close family had been shot to death.

The newly crowned King Gyanendra, brother of the murdered Birendra, was given an icy reception by his new subjects upon assuming the position as Nepal's reigning monarch.

Gyanendra immediately ordered the inquiry, but whether all of Nepal accepts its findings remained to be seen.

Blunt detail

The investigating committee confirmed news of Dipendra's guilt, which had already filtered through to the population of 22 million people, in blunt detail.

It said Dipendra had mown down his parents, the king and queen, and seven other family members with an assortment of weapons during a killing spree fueled by alcohol and drugs.

It said the last telephone call Dipendra made on his mobile was to Divyani Rana, who friends say he was in love with.

Although the commission did not conclude a motive for the slaughter, friends have said it was because of his parents' opposition to his choice of bride.

The commission, which announced its finding in a news conference broadcast live to the nation, painted a very different picture of Dipendra from the one that the traditionally monarchist population had come to respect.

It said the crown prince, who would have been 30 next Thursday, had a penchant for guns and regularly had aides check out weapons from the royal arsenal.

It said also that Dipendra was a habitual hashish user who had his orderlies prepare special cigarettes for him.

Dipendra, nearly paralytic from drink and drugs, was carried to his room on June 1 by relatives concerned his appearance would upset a family gathering.

Aides found him lying on the floor, trying to undress himself. He then threw up in the bathroom before dismissing them.

Last words slurred

His last slurred words to Rana, who he called minutes before the slaughter began, were: "I'm now going to sleep, goodnight. We'll talk tomorrow."

He then donned battle fatigues and black gloves and began firing over 75 rounds from weapons including a commando M-16 automatic rifle used by some of the world's most elite troops.

"His Royal Highness the Crown Prince... fired rat-tat-tat at His Majesty the King," Taranath Ranabhatt, parliamentary speaker and a commission member, told the news conference.

The official report, released by Nepal's newly crowned King Gyanendra, said the prince had smoked cigarettes laced with opium before carrying out the killings.

Thorough investigation

Taranath Ranabhatt, Speaker of the Lower House and one of the two-man investigating panel, said investigators had interviewed more than 100 people, including witnesses, staff at the royal palace, firearms and forensic experts, medical doctors and legal advisers.

The woman believed to be at the center of the royal dispute, Devyani Rana, has not been seen in the Nepalese capital since the killings and is thought not to have been interviewed by the inquiry.

Speculation is that she is now somewhere in Europe and, according to one local newspaper, fears for her life.

The release of the official report into the killings came on the same day as a traditional Hindu Katto ceremony was held to purge spirit of the late crown prince of its bad luck.

A similar ceremony -- in which a priest eats forbidden food before exiling himself in a remote part of the mountain kingdom -- has already been held for King Birendra.

Reuters contributed to this report.





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