Monday, May 26, 2008

Bomb explodes near building in Kathmandu where Nepal to be declared republic

KATHMANDU, Nepal — A bomb has exploded outside a convention centre in Nepal's capital of Kathmandu.

No injuries or serious damage are reported. But the blast, at the Birendra International Convention Centre, comes just days ahead of the formal abolition of Nepal's centuries-old monarchy. An assembly that is to remove the king and declare Nepal a republic is to meet at the convention centre Wednesday.

Earlier Monday, Nepalese authorities banned protests around King Gyanendra's palace and private residence to prevent violence.

Demonstrations were also barred near Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's house and the convention centre.

"There was no damage but police have stepped up security. We suspect it was targeted towards the assembly meeting," police spokesman Sarbendra Khanal said of the explosion.

Gyanendra belongs to the 239-year-old Shah dynasty, which dates to 1769 when a regional ruler conquered Kathmandu and united Nepal.

He is expected to move to his private home where he lived before becoming king in 2001 following a massacre at the royal palace.

Gyanendra assumed the throne after his elder brother Birendra was gunned down by his son Dipendra, along with several members of the royal family on June 1, 2001.

Gyanendra has been an unpopular figure since he seized absolute power in 2005. Weeks of pro-democracy protests in 2006 forced him to give up his authoritarian rule, and since then he has lost all his powers and command of the army.

In January, Nepal's interim parliament formally declared the country a secular state. Gyanendra's portrait has disappeared from shop walls and the currency. "Royal" has been removed from the name of the army and national airline, and references to the king are gone from the national anthem.

No comments: