Katmandu: Riot police clashed with thousands of communists demonstrating outside the government`s main offices in the Nepalese capital on Sunday, injuring several protesters and police officers.
Police fired tear gas to disperse the demonstrators who gathered to block the complex housing key offices, including the prime minister`s, in an attempt to shut down government machinations. Thousands of police had been deployed early Sunday to guard the complex.
The Maoists, former rebels who fought a bloody 10-year war that killed an estimated 13,000 people, have demanded that Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal step down and hand over power to a national communist-led government.
The crisis — which included a paralyzing six-day general strike last week called by the communists — has raised fears of renewed violence after the Maoists joined the political process in 2006 under a peace deal.
Protesters pelted police with stones Sunday, beat up pedestrians and television cameramen, and set government vehicles on fire. Both police and demonstrators were injured in the street battles.
Some 125,000 Maoists gathered in the capital Katmandu on May 1 for protest rallies. The Maoists on Friday had ended the crippling strike that shut down transportation, markets and schools, bowing to pressure from angry citizens, Western diplomats and business groups.
The Maoists traditionally back strike calls with the threat of violence against those who defy them, and security forces have been deployed in large numbers to mitigate unrest.
The communists won the country`s most recent elections and briefly led a coalition government. A dispute split their coalition and the Maoist leader resigned as prime minister, allowing the current government to come to power. The Maoists now want power back, but the government has refused to step aside.
The unrest comes as Nepal`s Constituent Assembly, elected to draw up a new constitution, struggles to draft the charter before its term expires May 28.