Locals flee as forces search rebels

Chitwan, March 23:

Locals have been fleeing their homes in panic ever since security forces started combing operations at Chautara of Darechowk VDC-6, after a clash that claimed the lives of 22 Maoists on Tuesday.

After information of the army having killed 22 Maoists, bodies of 14 Maoists were buried and another body was found yesterday, locals said.

Locals said Maoists carried off seven of their injured cadres. “Some livestock was destroyed but no civilian was killed in the clash,” said Ram Bahadur Gurung of Chautara.

“The villagers, who never had any quarrel with Maoists, are leaving the village as they fear reprisal by security forces hunting for the Maoists after the clash,” said a teacher, Narayan Adhikari. Fifteen of the 20 households at Chautara have fled the village, said Jeet Bahadur Gurung. All belong to the Gurung community.

Six Maoists were killed on the spot, a local said. That aside, five women Maoists cadres were killed. The Maoists reportedly numbered around 400, said eyewitnesses.

Meanwhile, a report from Narayangadh quoting a local from Kaule who reached Mugling yesterday said four of seven Maoists critically injured during the clash had died.

According to sources, the Maoist buried three of their cadres at Kaule in Chitwan and one at Kotgaun in Dhading.