Revolutionary Worker #1099, April 22, 2001, posted at http://rwor.org
On February 13, 2001, millions of people in Nepal greeted the 5th anniversary of the start of the People's War. There were hundreds of rallies, meetings and mass gatherings. There were celebrations and ceremonies. There were visits to those in prison and to the families of martyrs. And there were military actions against the police and other government authorities.
For five years the People's War, led by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), has continued to grow and sink deep roots among the masses of poor peasants in the countryside. Applying Mao's strategy of protracted guerrilla warfare, the people's army has grown and advanced--and is now able to carry out military actions involving hundreds of fighters.
In the first week of April, the people's army in Nepal delivered a series of daring raids--killing more than 80 policemen.
Routing the Police in Rukum
On April 2, 36 police were killed by people's army guerrillas at two police posts in the Rukum and Dolakha districts. This is the largest number of police killed in a single day since the start of the revolution.
In the heart of the people's war in the Western district of Rukum, guerrillas attacked striking a base camp in Rukumkot, killing 31 special armed policemen including the commander and sub-commander of the camp. Another 31 police were injured.
This particular police post, with 78 special commandos, had been set up to be a powerful and strategically secure police post. Just six months earlier, the police had shifted the post to the hilltop from the village below. They had hoped the hilltop station would give them a strategic advantage in case they were attacked by Maoist guerrillas.
At around 11 p.m. the small village across the nearby river erupted in a torch-lit demonstration. Police said this was done to divert their attention. Then the guerrillas launched the first wave of attack on the hilltop station.
The post was surrounded by fences and a thick mud and stone wall. A trench inside the wall separated the offices and living quarters. There were eight police observation posts on the walls overlooking the hilltop. The camp was surrounded by five landmines. But all these defenses were breached when the rebels launched their attack, first with socket bombs and then rifle fire.
According to the Kathmandu Post, the police were outnumbered and outgunned. Reportedly, more than 500 guerrillas surrounded the police station. The rebels then broke through the fence, overran the number one and eight observation posts, and entered the police compound in waves. They went to the trenches where most of the policemen had taken up position and had begun firing. Police later reported that most of the dead policemen had been killed in these trenches, some of them shot at close quarters.
One sergeant said, "They were so close to us, almost neck-to-neck. They breached our defenses and entered the police station in waves. There was nothing much we could do after that."
With ammunition running low, one group of police abandoned the post--and only returned in the morning after the guerrillas had left. Police reported that the remaining police surrendered to the rebels. One wounded policeman said the guerrillas separated the wounded police from the rest and allowed the injured to stay. The other 20 police were taken away as prisoners of war.
The guerrillas captured 64 rifles, three revolvers, three .22 magnums, two pistols, grenades, bombs, explosives and three communication sets from the spot. They also seized food rations and other provisions.
Newspapers reported that the next morning, when senior government and police officials arrived at the site, they found total destruction. The police huts, offices, the boundary walls and fences erected to foil just such an attack were all destroyed to the ground.
This same night, guerrillas launched another attack in eastern Nepal, in the village of Mainapokhari in Dolakha district. 39 policemen were posted here.
At 3:20 a.m. the attack began when guerrillas surrounded the police post from three sides and started firing and throwing socket and pipe bombs. Police said the clash continued until around 5:30 a.m. Five police were killed and 20 wounded.
According to a Deputy Superintendent of Police, the road on the eastern side of the headquarters had been blocked by felled trees--preventing any police reinforcements. Police said it took them five hours to clear the road.
Two days later, on April 3, two more police posts were hit.
At Mujhung in Palpa district, two police were killed and nine others injured. Officials said 22 police were at this post when it was attacked from all sides and communication lines were disconnected. The fighting ended when the police surrendered. According to reports, the guerrillas captured arms and ammunition, then gave a brief political class and first aid to the injured policemen.
At Dharke of Dhading district, a post of 15 police was attacked and destroyed. News reports say more than 500 Maoists attacked the police post at 11:00 p.m. and that after the police ran out of bullets, they surrendered with no casualties. The guerrillas then entered the post and captured weapons, communication equipment, and papers.
On April 5, people's army guerrillas attacked a number of other police posts, capturing weapons, ammunition and cash. This was on the eve of a nationwide bandh (strike) called by the CPN (Maoist).
The next day, on April 6, the bandh paralyzed normal life in many places throughout Nepal, mainly in urban areas. Schools, colleges and businesses were shut and most vehicles stayed off the roads.
The Kathmandu Post reported that on the day of the bandh, around 300 armed rebels attacked six buildings in Tikapur of Kailali district. The buildings, which were almost done, were being built to house some 2,000 personnel of the proposed Armed Police Force. The guerrillas also took cash and six vehicles and damaged other construction equipment.
On April 7, only six days after the attacks in Rukum and Dolakha, guerrillas carried out another daring raid, 343 miles west of Kathmandu. This time, the target was a police outpost manned by 72 officers in the remote village of Naumule in the district of Dailekh. Over 30 police were killed, 12 were injured and 10 were reported as taken prisoner.
News reports said the assault began at around 10:30 p.m. when about 400 to 600 guerrillas attacked the post from all sides, taking advantage of the fact that this police post is surrounded by a stream on three sides and by forests and high mountains on all sides.
The post was bombed several times during the attack, leaving it completely demolished. Newspapers reported that before the attack, torches had been lit at three different points in the surrounding mountains.
News reports also said that after the guerrillas took control of the post, the 28 surviving policemen surrendered and were left unharmed after they promised they would quit their jobs. The rebels then left, capturing 72 rifles.
Newspapers in Nepal have reported that some police officials are saying their men are now demoralized and have lost the will to fight. After the raid in Dhading, 16 police were taken into custody and charged with desertion. According to one police official, "The team had surrendered to the Maoists on April 2 immediately after the Maoists announced through loudspeakers that many policemen had been killed in Rukum and that all the lives would be spared if the team surrendered." The accused cops, if found guilty, could be sentenced to as much as life imprisonment.
One policeman, Arjun Kharel, had written home for the last time three weeks before he was killed in the raid at Rukumkot. Arjun, the only member of his family with a job, wrote home that he had tried three times to leave the police force. "But they won't let me," the letter said, "The last time they dragged me back at gunpoint, and now I'm sitting on this hilltop waiting to die."
There have also been several news reports of police posts being evacuated and defections in the police force. The Kathmandu Post reported that on April 8, about 35 to 40 police deserted their post in Dhurkotwastu. After encountering 300 guerrillas, a group of police returned to their post and informed the rest of the police. All the police then deserted the post. The Kathmandu Post also reported that in Singati, 100 police abandoned a strategically located police post--which had been holding a defensive position in an area where Maoist guerrillas have increasingly gained control. Some of the police who survived the attack in Naumule have also reportedly deserted.
The series of successful raids by Maoist guerrillas in the first week of April brought the number of casualties suffered by the police to 80. Nepal's Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has said the country is now facing an emergency situation and has asked the government's security forces to come up with new strategies to fight the People's War.
Immediately after the April 2 raids an emergency meeting of the National Defense Council (NDC)--the country's top security body--met to "seriously review" the deteriorating security situation. The Defense Minister emerged from the meeting to announce that "all necessary means" would be taken to maintain law and order.
Later in the week Koirala meet with King Birendra to ask him to mobilize the Royal Nepalese Army--according to Nepal's Constitution, deployment of the army requires an endorsement from the King.
The same week, the European Union issued a statement, endorsed by the United States, stating support for the right of the Nepalese government to provide security in the face of the current crisis. And according to news reports, the U.S. Ambassador to Nepal met with King Birenda to discuss the situation.
Soldiers have been stationed in areas where the People's War is going on. But so far, the army has not been mobilized to fight the guerrillas. Now this may change. On April 12, King Birendra approved a paramilitary ordinance to set up a special Armed Police Force to combat the Maoist insurgency. The 15,000-strong paramilitary force will be trained by the Army. They will be equipped with automatic rifles from the military. And the Army has announced that it has approved joint patrols with the police.
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