The United Nations said yesterday it was "deeply concerned" that Maoist rebels in Nepal have ended their unilateral ceasefire, warning that the troubled Himalayan kingdom now faces an escalation of violence.
"The United Nations in Nepal is deeply concerned that the people of Nepal are again faced with the prospect of an escalation in fighting, the loss of more lives, and increased and prolonged suffering," it said in a statement.
In the past two months, it added, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan had repeatedly urged the rebels to extend their ceasefire and the Nepalese government to reciprocate the truce.
"The United Nations regrets that the many appeals from the people of Nepal and the international community have not been heeded and no progress appears to have been made towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict," it said.
Maoist leader Pranchanda in a statement Monday called off the four-month-old truce, blaming continued action by the army who did not match the ceasefire.
He said the rebels would resume hostilities against government forces but would not target civilians, a move welcomed by a leading human rights organization.
"We hope that the Maoists will give high priority to civilians' security while waging war against the state," said Kundan Aryal, general secretary of the Informal Sector Service center.
The ending of the truce was marked by three minor explosions Monday evening in Pokhara, a popular tourist town in western Nepal, and in Butwal and Bhairahawa, two small towns southwest of the capital, an army spokesman said yesterday.
"Minor blasts occurred in three places, in open areas," said the spokesman, adding there were no reports of damage or injuries.
"There was very minor damage to the roadside and no casualties," said a police officer from Pokhara who asked not to be named. "It seems like unidentified people left the explosives and ran away before they detonated."
More than 12,000 people have died in the so-called "people's war" waged by the Maoists since 1996 to topple the monarchy and establish a communist republic.
King Gyanendra sacked a coalition government and assumed direct power last February, sacking it had failed to tackle the revolt.
In November the Maoists reached a loose agreement with seven parties who had been shunted aside and vowed jointly to push for democracy.
The end of the ceasefire will not mean the end of that understanding, politicians said. One leading opposition politician said the resumption of hostilities was inevitable following repeated army attacks.
"Naturally, they will resort to violence after breaking the ceasefire and it is quite understandable," Ram Sharan Mahat, leader of the Nepali Congress party, told AFP.