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NEPAL: Insecurity fears mount

NEPALGUNJ/ KATHMANDU, 2 March 2012 (IRIN) – Political infighting, a stalled drafting of the country’s constitution and armed violence nationwide have increased insecurity in Nepal, culminating this past week in a bombing in Kathmandu which killed three and injured about 10.

“These are purely criminal groups using ethnic politics as a cover to spread violence across the country,” senior government official Shankar Koirala, a spokesman for Nepal’s Ministry of Home Affairs, told IRIN in Kathmandu. Some members of a little-known armed group, the United Ethnic Liberation Front Nepal, claimed responsibility.

The government intends to speed up plans to boost security by expanding its police force, which numbers 90,000, and upgrading security technology.

“This programme is crucial so that such incidents are not repeated, and that armed outfits are controlled,” Koirala explained.

Far from the capital, armed groups have increasingly been “terrorizing” civilians for ransom payments which go towards their ethnic-based political movements and are a growing threat to public security, police report from Nepalgunj, 500km southwest of Kathmandu.

Nepalgunj lies in the country’s mid-west and was known as one of the most violent cities nationwide during the 1996-2006 armed conflict between the government and separatist Maoist rebels, which left more than 13,000 dead.

A relative peace returned nationwide following the official end of fighting, but the rise of underground armed groups related to various ethnic-based political parties in recent years has caused anxiety among residents and government officials.

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