Nepali Times Asian Paints
From The Nepali Press
Highway ambush

KRISHNABHIR-After the Maoists called a Dhading Banda on Tuesday, we were on high alert. My friends and I were sitting in front of my office at the Highway Information Centre, when a vehicle full of soldiers stopped in front of us. I knew the soldiers, they were on patrol from Gajuri.

Suddenly their walkie talkie crackled to life. "We have been ambushed, we have been ambushed." the voice at the other end said frantically and then went silent. With permission from the soldier, I sped off in my motorbike. Further down the road, locals warned me not to go there was heavy gunfire. At Malekhu an army patrol asked me to tell the soldiers ahead that three army vehicles were coming for help.

I saw many soldiers at the Charaundi junction where the road from Gorkha and Prithbi Highway meet. I told them that help was on its way, but as soon as I said that I realised they were Maoist guerrillas in combat fatigues. One of them said, "Ok guys, get ready. Three enemy vehicles are coming." They interrogated me. I showed them my Nepal One Television ID card and they allowed me to film.

It was 9.45 AM and there was shooting going on in the bajar. There were around 150 rebels and they had divided themselves into several groups. Some were carrying two radio sets, one looted from soldiers they ambushed through which they monitored the army's communications. They would first listen to the army's radio set and then issue orders through their own set, "Just use the LMG, just use the LMG," one of them would shout instructions.

A female guerrilla was interrogating a wounded soldier. When I approached them, she asked, "Are you a journalist or human rights activist?" When I said I was a reporter, she said that the offensive had taken place under her command and her name was Pratiksha. "Broadcast this news with my name and take note of the fact that we have followed the rules of war," she said and handed the injured soldier to me. "Take care of him and hide him before the others spot him, the fighting hasn't finished yet," she said.

I took him to a house and dressed his wound. Outside, the Maoists were dancing and shouting with their captured weapons. Never before had I seen so many Maoists, they had come here under from the east under the Special Ring Command. Two were carrying a rocket launcher, others were carrying guns with tripods, all had AK 47, INSAS SLR assault rifles.

I sped on to Krishnabhir but by the time I got there, the rebels had left. An army truck riddled with bullets, shrapnel and still on fire lay on the side of the road. There was a soldier's body nearby.

I returned to fetch the injured soldier I had hidden in the house. About 500 Maoists were walking towards Ghyalchok in Gorkha, others were climbing uphill to southern Dhading. As I rode back to Malekhu with the injured soldier, we were met by an army vehicle. I handed over the injured soldier and they headed for Krishnabhir. (As told to Ujir Magar)

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)