A defence ministry official on Sunday said that the Maoists opened fire in the western district of Jajarkot on Wednesday, after demanding that an army-run humanitarian team retreat from a village in a rebel stronghold.

  

“The team refused to retreat and the Maoists opened fire. Our team fired in retaliation, resulting in the deaths of seven Maoists including one of their local unit heads. A civilian was killed in the crossfire. There were no casualties among the army," he said.

 

Serious encounter

 

A Maoist leader in Kathmandu said the rebels were still collecting information on the losses they had suffered.

  

The army team was trying to head to the Namidanda area to provide medical treatment to villagers and launch infrastructure projects, including the construction of a facility to bring clean drinking water, officials said.

 

Maoist supporters protest
violation of ceasefire

The encounter was the most serious between the Maoists and the government since they reached a ceasefire on 29 January and started peace talks. In April, a female Maoist member was killed by soldiers in eastern Nepal.

  

The Maoists hold de facto control over vast swathes of the Himalayan kingdom. They declared a "people's war" in 1996 to topple the constitutional monarchy that has left more than 7,800 people dead.