Nepal army guns down rebels
KATHMANDU, Nepal (CNN) -- The Royal Nepal Army has gunned down 76 Maoist rebels over the weekend in separate incidents in remote western districts, a government statement said.
The statement, issued by the defense ministry on Monday, said that 67 Maoist rebels were shot dead in a gun battle in the northwestern district of Kalikot on Saturday.
The same day, four "terrorists" were killed in Kaski district, two in Banke district and three more in Kanchanpur district.
All are districts in the western parts of Nepal where a Maoist insurgency has wreaked havoc for the last six years.
The ministry claims, however, are difficult to verify as Nepal has been under a state of emergency rule since last November and independent journalists are discouraged by the government to travel to Maoist hotbed areas.
The emergency was ratified by parliament last week, extending it for another three months.
Defense ministry spokesman Bhola Silwal said that in Kalikot, the rebels were the same group that launched a deadly raid in Mangalsen and Sanfebagar of Achham district on February 17, killing more than 130 soldiers, policemen and civilians.
"The terrorists were killed in nearby Kalikot while trying to escape," Silwal said in the statement, adding that the army had blocked the escape routes, precipitating the gun battle. Kalikot adjoins Achham district.
More than 2,500 people have died in Nepal since the Maoists surfaced in 1996 with their "people's war" campaign. They are aiming to overthrow Nepal's constitutional monarchy in favor of a communist republic.
In an interview with CNN last week, Nepalese Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba vowed to crush the rebels.
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