Nepal observes a day of mourning

Nepal has observed a day of mourning for 12 citizens captured and executed in Iraq as protests spread to the west of the Hindu kingdom following two deaths during riots in the capital.

    Soldiers stand guard outside a mosque after a day of violence

    Kathmandu, which suffered tens of thousands of dollars in damage on Wednesday when furious crowds torched offices of Arab airlines and businesses, was quiet on Thursday, with police given shoot-on-sight orders against rioters. 

    The city's main mosque, the Jama Masjid, was still smouldering as Muslims collected pieces of the Quran burned when protesters stormed the shrine and ransacked it. 

    But protests spread to the western Nepalese city of Palpa, where police said they opened 12 rounds of blank fire to disperse a crowd of 3000 people chanting slogans against Iraqi resistance fighters. 

    "At least two demonstrators were injured when police used a
    baton charge to break up the crowd," a witness said. Police said they feared the protesters would vent their fury by attacking businesses. 

    Schools shut down

    Shops and schools were shut nationwide for the official mourning as the Himalayan kingdom's twin-triangle sun-and-moon flag was flown at half mast.

    The 12 Nepalese, who were kidnapped 10 days before their
    executions were announced, had flown to Jordan in hopes of being cooks and cleaners. 

    The police on Wednesday clamped an indefinite curfew, which was lifted for three and a half hours on Thursday to allow the city's 1.5 million people to buy food and other essential goods. 

    Curfew extended

    "We are likely to extend the curfew to the weekend to avoid any clashes on Friday as it is the Muslims' day of prayer," a Home Ministry official said. 

    Muslims clean up debris around
    the main mosque in Kathmandu

    Two people were killed in Kathmandu on Wednesday, including a man who was shot dead by police as a crowd tried to storm the Egyptian embassy, which represents Iraqi interests in Nepal. 

    The other man was shot dead as a surging crowd chanted slogans against Islamic hardliners in Ratna Park, a sensitive area due to its proximity to King Gyanendra's Narayanhity Palace. 

    Much of Nepal's Islamic community is descended from people who fled India during a failed 1857 uprising against British rule. 

    Muslims today account for 3.8% of the 27 million people in Nepal. Until this week it had seen little of the inter-religious violence that has scarred other nations in South Asia. 

    Flights suspended

    Meanwhile, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has suspended flights to Nepal after its office in Kathmandu was ransacked in the rioting.

    "We have called upon
    the Nepali government
    to provide full security and protection to Pakistan's diplomatic officials and private personnel and premises"

    Masud Khan,
    Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman

    "We have suspended our flights to Kathmandu because of the
    security problem," Bashir Ahmad, a spokesman for the state-run airline, said on Thursday. "They will remain suspended until the situation improves there." 

    PIA operates two weekly flights to Kathmandu.

    Crowds attacked the offices of Saudi Arabian Airlines and Qatar Airways as well as that of PIA. 

    Pakistan's Foreign Ministry termed the attack on the PIA office "really regrettable", adding that Islamabad condemned the killing of the Nepali workers. 

    "We have called upon the Nepali Government to provide full security and protection to Pakistan's diplomatic officials and private personnel and premises," the state-run APP news agency quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Masud Khan as saying. 

    SOURCE: Agencies


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