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Rebels Attack Nepal Village Days After Truce Ends  - 2004-11-01

In Nepal, hundreds of suspected Maoist rebels have attacked a remote village. The attack comes at the end of a brief truce called to mark the country's main festival.

Nepalese officials said Monday several hundred rebels bombed and torched the police station, court house and administrative center and knocked down a telecommunication tower in Gamgadi village. The remote Himalayan village lies about six hundred kilometers northwest of the capital Kathmandu.

The officials say the rebels battled troops for several hours before fleeing into nearby forests. Journalists were not able to reach the area to confirm the reports and it was not clear how many casualties there were in the fighting.

The attack was the first major assault blamed on the rebels since the end of a nine-day truce declared by both sides over the Hindu kingdom's biggest festival, Dassain.

The fighting put an end to hopes that the brief truce, which ended Thursday, might be more lasting.

The government had offered to extend the cease-fire if the Maoists reciprocated - but the rebels failed to respond.

Violence erupted soon after the festivities ended last week - army officials say 20 rebels were killed in clashes on Saturday and Sunday.

Political analysts say the violence is a signal that the rebels have rejected the government's latest peace offer.

Lok Raj Baral, who heads the Center for Contemporary Studies in Kathmandu, says the rebels are not responding to the government's peace overtures because they think an administration appointed by the king is not in a position to negotiate on their core demand of ending the monarchy.

"They think this government cannot do it, it has no capacity no power to deal with it," Mr. Baral says. "Since the power lies with the palace, the king, the Maoists - according to their version - it is useless to talk to the present government."

King Gyanendra dissolved Parliament and assumed executive powers in 2002, accusing the elected government of not handling the Maoist rebellion effectively. Since then, a series of governments appointed by him have failed to either crush the rebellion or negotiate peace with the Maoists.

The Maoists have fought since 1996 to end the constitutional monarchy and establish communist rule. At least 10,000 people have died in the fighting. Violence has surged since peace talks broke down last year