KATMANDU, Jan 21 (AP): Nepalese opposition leaders renewed calls Saturday for a massive demonstration in the capital against the king's seizure of absolute power, defying a government curfew and crackdown on protesters.
"Arresting a few leaders and activists is not going to stop us from holding the protest rally. Thousands of people will pour out into the streets (Saturday)," Khadga Prasad Oli, of the Communist Party of Nepal, said by telephone.
Oli and at least four other opposition leaders were placed under house arrest Friday, when a planned rally was disrupted by about 15,000 troops who imposed a curfew on Katmandu and its suburb of Lalitpur. Mobile phones were cut off, and the government said it arrested 214 people in the capital.
No curfew was in place Saturday, but security officials said they remained poised to stop the protest. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to policy, said they had orders to enforce the ban on protests and rallies in Katmandu.
By Saturday morning fewer security forces were on the streets, but the number was expected to rise.
Krishna Sitaula, a member of Nepali Congress, the largest political party, also said the opposition would not be deterred.
"Though we were not able to hold the rally Friday, we have decided to take out protests Saturday at the same venue in Katmandu at the same time we had planned for Friday," Sitaula said in a telephone interview.
Friday's crackdown followed a series of sweeping raids in recent days, in which security forces detained several other senior politicians, student leaders and rights activists.
The government said it had to prevent the rally because it had information that communist rebels planned to use the event to launch attacks. The guerrillas have been fighting to replace the constitutional monarchy with a socialist government.
"We have to protect the people and maintain peace and tranquility," said Home Minister Kamal Thapa. However, the rebels, who made an agreement with opposition political parties last year to put pressure on the king to restore democracy, said they would not disrupt the demonstration.
The king said he took over power in February 2005 because the previous administration had failed to fight corruption or contain the long-running communist insurgency.
Last week, 150,000 people led by pro-democracy activists gathered in a southwestern Nepal town in the largest political rally since the king seized power.
Another AFP reports adds: Suspected Maoist rebels killed five police and seriously wounded three when they attacked two police checkposts in mid-western Nepal, a police official said Saturday.
"The rebels gunned down three policemen at Jamuniya checkpost along the Nepal-India border, and two at B.P. Chowk in Nepalgunj," said an official at Kathmandu police headquarters who asked to remain anonymous.
Following one of Friday's attacks, 510 kilometres (320 miles) west of the capital, the three critically wounded police officers were airlifted to the police hospital in Kathmandu, the official said.
The Maoists have fought a decade-long "people's war" aimed at establishing a communist republic in the impoverished Himalayan kingdom between India and China. Some 12,000 people have been killed and at least 100,000 displaced.