Nepal troops on offensive against Maoists
Parliament extends state of emergency
KATHMANDU, Nepal -- The Nepalese government says at least 48 Maoist rebels are dead following clashes with security personnel.
The government offensive follows a deadly attack by rebels over the weekend that left 137 people, mostly soldiers and policemen dead -- the bloodiest in a six-year revolt. The rebels want to replace Nepal's constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy with a communist republic.
Nepal's parliament voted Thursday to ratify an emergency decree that will allow the government to extend a state of emergency for another three months.
The emergency decree was originally imposed in November after talks between government and Maoist rebels broke down.
The weekend massacre has set off a political crisis in Nepal, with opposition parties calling for the country's Prime Minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, to quit.
But the government has urged a stop to what it calls political bickering and infighting, and called for its people to "stand together to fight terrorism."
In one raid alone, more than 49 policemen were killed in Mangalsen town, in the western district of Accham, about 450 km or 280 miles west of the capital.
In the four-hour gun battle on Sunday, rebels attacked a jail, raided a bank, destroyed an army barracks, a police station and torched many government buildings in the town.
Another 27 policemen died while defending an airstrip in nearby Sanfebagar village.
It is unclear how many rebels were killed, but state-run media is reporting that at least 40 rebel bodies had been recovered.
King Gyanendra declared the state of emergency last year and ordered the army to be deployed against the rebels after they ended a ceasefire and attacked police and army posts across the country.
More than 2,500 people have died in the conflict in the landlocked nation of 23 million, sandwiched between giants India and China.
Since declaring the state of emergency last November, Nepal has had some success against the insurgents in urban areas.
The latest attacks take the death toll since November to over 700 people, most of them rebels, according to Reuters news agency.
The rebellion has rocked Nepal's impoverished economy, hit development projects, hurt business confidence and affected tourism, the country's third largest foreign exchange earner after exports and foreign aid.
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