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U.S. embassy guard killed in Nepal

From Journalist Suman Pradhan


KATHMANDU, Nepal (CNN) -- A security officer at the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu has been shot dead by unidentified assailants in what police said appears to be a deliberate escalation of violence by Maoist rebels.

Dipak Pokharel, a security supervisor, was shot dead at 3 p.m. Saturday while he was sleeping in his house in Kathmandu's Buddhanagar suburb, police said.

The U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu confirmed the killing but refused to speculate on the possible reasons.

"All we have to say at this point is that the Embassy regrets the loss of life," said Constance Jones, a spokeswoman for the embassy.

Senior embassy staffers and police inspected the site of the killing. The embassy is treating the killing as a case for the local police.

Though no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, police said they suspect the killing to be the work of Maoist rebels.

The rebels, who are fighting for a republican state in Nepal, have called for a three-day general strike from November 11.

Violence has increased in the run-up to the strike as suspected rebels exploded two powerful bombs in Kathmandu Saturday, wounding at least three passersby.

On Friday, another blast in the adjoining town of Banepa killed a 12-year-old boy and wounded two other people.

The government says that nearly 7,000 people have died in the course of the

Maoist insurgency, which began in 1996.

Nepal's King Gyanendra has taken over all executive functions after sacking

an elected government in October, a crisis precipitated in large part by the

government's inability to control the Maoist rebellion.

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