KATHMANDU, Nepal, Nov. 29 — Maoist rebels bombed a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Nepal’s capital Kathmandu on Thursday, the first major attack in the city since the Himalayan kingdom imposed a state of emergency this week.
THE DAWN BLAST, which caused damage but no casualties, was the latest in a spate of attacks blamed on Maoists fighting to topple the constitutional monarchy.
The attack, in the industrial district of Kathmandu, came on the third full day of a military offensive against the rebels, who renewed their campaign after breaking a four-month truce with the government last week.
The guerrillas also tried to raid a police post in eastern Nepal, but were beaten back by the army in an overnight encounter, the defense ministry said in a statement.
Soldiers, who have been deployed for the first time since the guerrillas rose in revolt in 1996, recovered explosives, cash and some documents “related to terrorist activities” from a ditch in the Gorkha district of central Nepal, it said.
Witnesses said six masked men armed with pistols and a rifle knocked on the gates of the Coke plant, saying they were police. They jumped over the iron gates when security guards asked them for identity cards.
“Once they were inside, they told us they were Maoists and we had nothing to worry,” N.B. Shreshta, a guard, told Reuters.
The guerrillas then told the guards to leave the plant and left two bombs, Shreshta added.
The roof and windows of the plant were blown off and the wall damaged. Police said six people had been detained for questioning after the attack and the plant had been cordoned off.
Company officials said the factory would be out of operation for several months. “It’s all over, the damage is very extensive,” Chandra Shreshta, sales manager of the plant, said.
PRIVATE INDUSTRY TARGETED
The streets of Kathmandu were crowded with office-goers on Thursday but armed guards were posted at key intersections.
“I was woken up suddenly by a big blast. Soon after there was another sound. I rushed out immediately and went to the spot. I could see the damaged wall of the plant and some windows were broken,” Ram Bhakta Shreshta, a local businessman living close to the Coca Cola plant, said.
The rebels from the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) have targeted private industry before. Two months ago they attacked liquor companies in western Nepal.
“It (the Coke plant attack) seems to have been more of a propaganda bombing in a series of economic terrorism waged by the Maoists,” said C.K. Lall, a columnist with the Nepali Times.
Officials said that 66 rebels had been killed since the army launched the operations on Monday night.
Nepal’s government appealed on Wednesday for military supplies from its giant neighbor India to help end the revolt. New Delhi responded positively.
But an Indian foreign ministry spokeswoman declined to comment when asked whether India would be ready to supply soldiers along with military equipment to crush the rebellion.
At least 100 people were killed in Maoist attacks over the weekend, prompting King Gyanendra to proclaim the emergency and call in the army for the first time to hunt down the guerrillas.
About 2,000 people have been killed since the revolt erupted in 1996, hurting tourism, a major foreign exchange earner.
Gyanendra became king after the kingdom’s previous crown prince gunned down most of the royal family, including the then King Birendra, in a drunken rampage.