Government imposes curfew in Nepalese capital after killing of hostages in Iraq sparks riots
September 1, 2004
KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) – Nepal’s government imposed an indefinite curfew and appealed for calm Wednesday after thousands of demonstrators ransacked a mosque and clashed with police in the capital to protest the slaying of 12 Nepalese hostages by Iraqi militants.
One demonstrator died late Wednesday after being wounded during the clashes, said doctors at the Bir Hospital in Katmandu. Three more protesters were in serious condition.
“We want revenge,” the protesters shouted as they stormed the Jame mosque – the only Muslim house of worship in the capital. They broke windows and set fire to carpets, furniture and parts of the building. No one was inside at the time. Police fired tear gas in an unsuccessful attempt to disperse the mob.
Protesters also attacked the offices of at least two dozen agencies that send workers abroad, throwing furniture and documents into the streets and burning buildings.
Hours after the rioting broke out, the government imposed an indefinite curfew and warned that violators would be shot on sight. Army helicopters hovered over Katmandu while soldiers patrolled the streets.
Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba called for calm in an address on state-run Nepal Television.
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“Terrorists have no religion or caste. That is why I appeal to all Nepalese not to be misguided by the cruel and inhuman acts of the terrorists and be provoked against any community,” Deuba said. “I urge everyone to have patience, show tolerance and unity at this hour of grief.”
By early evening, the city was quiet.
A gruesome video posted on a Web site Tuesday showed militants slitting the neck of one Nepalese worker and shooting 11 others. The 12 contract workers had disappeared soon after entering Iraq from Jordan on Aug. 19.
The prime minister said the government was trying to locate their bodies so they could be shipped home.
The protesters accused the government of not doing enough to secure the release of the victims. The prime minister, however, said the government tried its best to get the hostages freed through the media and diplomatic channels.
The government said the families of the victims would receive 1 million rupees (about $14,400) each and it declared Thursday a day of mourning, saying offices and schools would be closed all day.
Iraqi militants have taken more than 100 foreigners hostage in recent months.
Nepal, which has no troops in Iraq, has long banned its citizens from working there because of security concerns. However, many people from the poor Himalayan nation take jobs abroad and 17,000 Nepalese are believed to have slipped into Iraq – many working as armed security guards for foreign contractors.