Security officials said on Sunday the rebels were killed in firefights that erupted at three different places. Three civilians also died in the renewed violence over the past 48 hours.

"Five rebels were killed in the southern Sarlahi district and another one in Bhojpur district following an exchange of fire between rebels and the security personnel," an official said.

Two other guerrillas were killed in eastern Dhanakuta district, the official added.

Two soldiers were killed in an ambush by an armed group of rebels in Kathmandu district, a defence ministry official said.

Meanwhile, the Nepali-language Kantipur daily said the Maoist rebels had threatened to kill seven members of a family in the western Banke district.

The rebels hung posters in and around the place, saying they would kill one Basant Shrestha, his two wives and children for being a government spy unless they left their village immediately.

Insurgency

Pressing for a change in the kingdom's constitutional monarchy, the Maoists have been engaged in an armed insurgency since 1996, that has claimed more than 7900 lives.

In view of the upsurge in violence since the Maoists abandoned peace talks on 27 August, the authorities have cautioned all government ministers to avoid attending meetings outside the capital Kathmandu.

In other violent incidents, the rebels burnt down the ancestral home of an army general in the southern Parsa district on Saturday night.

"According to reports, hundreds of rebels forced the people living inside the house to come out and later set fire to it," the Nepali-language daily, Mahanagar reported.