Maoists Cripple Nepal

Kathmandu grounded to a halt on Saturday as pro-Maoist strikers took to the streets of the Nepali capital in another sign of growing tension between the communist opposition and the administration led by Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal. More than 120,000 supporters of the former communist administration called on the prime minister to resign, vowing to shut down the country for days unless Nepal gives in to their demand.

Schools and markets were closed across the country as Maoist supporters held a general strike. Transportation systems were also shut down, forcing people to walk to get to their destinations. Reports said some people headed to the country’s international airport had to walk to catch their flights. A Maoist leader said the protests would be peaceful, but warned that they would not hesitate to use force if the government “provokes” them. “We are protesting peacefully. But if the authorities try to provoke us in any ways we are ready and prepared to retaliate,” strike coordinator Chandra Bahadur Thapa said.

The prime minister has vowed not to step down and give way to a Maoist-led government, saying that the political crisis should be solved through dialogue. The government has deployed thousands of police to monitor the protests and prevent violence from occurring.

The communist party is trying to wrest control of the government, which it ruled for a brief period in 2008, two years after ending a decade-long insurgency that killed more than 13,000 people.