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Protests against Nepal king turn violent

KATMANDU, Nepal -- Security forces fired on anti-monarch demonstrators in separate marches yesterday, killing one and wounding five as the government escalated its crackdown on those seeking a return of democracy.

Authorities said they would extend a dawn-to-dusk curfew in the capital to a second day, today, after opposition parties announced plans to hold a rally. The curfew will be imposed from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in Katmandu and its surrounding areas, and gives security forces orders to shoot any violators, a notice on the state-run Nepal Television said.

Yesterday, the government imposed a curfew in Katmandu and its suburbs, saying it was necessary to ensure the safety of people and property.

Meanwhile, thousands of activists rampaged through the southern town of Bharatpur, burning government offices and forcing riot police to retreat from the town square before officers opened fire, a government official said on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

Police fired bullets and tear gas to disperse the protesters, who are demanding that King Gyanendra restore democracy in this Himalayan kingdom. Three women bystanders were injured, the official said.

The protest at Bharatpur, about 90 miles southwest of Katmandu, was the biggest in the ongoing four-day anti-monarchy protests nationwide by the country's main political parties.

In Katmandu, the government's curfew and shoot-on-sight orders crushed opposition plans for a massive anti-monarchy rally, emptying the roads and sending demonstrators indoors after two days of violent protests.

The rally in the capital was intended to be the high point of a four-day general strike called by Nepal's seven main opposition parties to pressure Gyanendra to restore democracy.

Gyanendra seized power in February last year, claiming the government failed to quell a growing communist insurgency. Some 13,000 people have been killed since the Maoists launched their insurgency in 1996.

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