It is the morning after in Beni and a scene of utter devastation. The police station is a blackened wreck. The barbed wire had been clipped away and the perimeter wall blasted open at several points. Sandbags at the sentry posts are torn to shreds. Near the army base, a woman is washing the bloodstain from the steps outside her shop, while her daughter looks on.
The police and soldiers guarding the police base fought from 10:30 on the night of Saturday, 20 March, until 6 the next morning against thousands of Maoists, until their ammunition ran out. Those who survived either fled, or were taken prisoner. Down the road, the soldiers at the army base kept fighting till daylight and most of their casualties took place in the morning.
The army camp is the only government building to survive partially intact, although it was nearly overrun at one point. Some 25 mortar rounds and a rocket landed here, fired from the mountains above. Whoever decided to put the district headquarters here at the confluence of the Kali Gandaki and Myagdi wasn't thinking of security.
Lt Col Ragu Nepali's office with its sandbagged windows is a wreck. He estimates there were at least 5,000 Maoists involved in the attack: frontline fighters, militia and porters. "They came in waves, like the sea, one after another, one after another," said Nepali, looking exhausted after two nights without sleep. "There were more women than men. And many, many child soldiers. I saw them while I was shooting back." There were six Maoist bodies inside the army base and Nepali points them out: "They are all young children, this one is a girl."