Nepal Maoists lay siege of capital, toll on people

Kathmandu: Nepal's Maoists laid siege to the capital today after talks failed to make a breakthrough in a political standoff with the government, as the crippling strike began to take a toll on the people and led to short supply of essential food items.

Most parts of the country was paralysed as the former rebels enforced the third day of a general strike to force the resignation of Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal in bid to form of a new coalition led by the Maoists.

Tens of thousands of Maoist activists wearing red t-shirts formed a human chain to lay siege to the capital. The agitation shut down most transport, schools, and businesses, grinding daily business down to a standstill as Maoists cadres staged mass rallies and threatened anyone who defied the anti-government campaign.

Amid the crippling strike, there has been growing fears of a diarrhoea and dysentery epidemic spreading in the capital. More than 400 Maoist cadres, who came to the capital earlier this week from different districts to participate in the agitation, have fallen ill due to consumption of polluted water and unhygienic food, according to hospital sources.

The government started evacuating scores of tourists, mainly foreigners, stranded by the strike out of the capital. Local official said scores of tourists, mostly Indians, were escorted out of the town by armed police.

"We have been organising a shuttle bus service for tourists, to evacuate those who want to leave the country," an official said. "Many have already left the city. The protesters have not targeted tourists or vehicles carrying tourists."

The government is also working on a plan to transport Nepalese who need to immediately return to their villages, officials said.

Maoists cadres also vandalised dozens of shops in the capital for "defying" their strike, according to the media. They also looted shops, one of the owners told a TV channel.

The crippling strike may be beginning to take a toll. It has led to short supply of essential food items as police escorted fuel and food trucks into the capital, witnesses said.

There were signs of resistance from the people facing hardships in some parts of the country. People protested as Maoists burnt properties, including a motorbike, for defying their strike in Satungal on the outskirt of the capital.

The locals retaliated after the Maoists stopped a motorbike and burnt it, according to the police.