Nepali Times
From The Nepali Press
Slaughter on the banks of the Tila

The 227-strong temporary base camp of the RNA at Pili was set up only 12 days ago. Fifteen minutes after the helicopter that brought in camp commander Lt Col Raju Debkota had flown back to Nepalganj on Sunday evening, Maoists in the thousands started their attack on the post. The soldiers hadn't even had time to dig trenches and sentry posts and a helicopter had made two trips ferrying supplies from Kathmandu on Sunday itself.

Most of the personnel in the camp were non-military staff from the Pioneer Brigade, Bhadrakali who are normally used for road construction, flood and landslide rescue. They had arrived in Kalikot three months ago and soldiers from the Sri Jang Brigade at Singha Darbar and Debi Dal brigade in Lalitpur had just arrived to provide protection for the road worker recruits.

The battle raged from six in the evening on Sunday, 7 August till four the next morning. Army helicopters with nigh vision were dispatched but couldn't do much because of the terrain. They were finally able to land at a nearby school on Monday afternoon where they found 40 bodies of dead soldiers, 111 others who were missing have been located and the fate of 76 others is not yet known. Lt Col Debkota and seven others managed to escape.
Eleven of the soldiers appear to have been lined up and executed with a bullet in the forehead. After capture some of them tried to raise their hands and say that they were sons of poor families from the Pioneer Brigade but were cut down with khukuris. A Lt Bhandari had his private parts cut off and then was killed.

The soldiers fought back for over nine hours. The attacks came from two sides. Many soldiers were thrown down the cliff on one side of the camp. The weapon guarding the perimeter was firing continuously till three in the morning until it ran out of ammo. If the Maoist claim of having captured a lot of ammunition is true then it looks like the soldiers couldn't get to the armoury to reload. The only way out for the soldiers after they ran out of bullets was to escape into the night. All in all the Maoists lost at least 26 of their fighters, including batallion commissar Lokesh (Sharad Awasti).

Ironically,because of a heart condition Raju Debkota was posted to road construction garrisons in the west. The RNA has been in a hurry to finish the Karnali Highway because of King Gyanendra's expressed wish during a visit to Kalikot last year. But Naresh Basnet, an officer known as the army's millionaire who is in charge of the army's construction projects, sent an untrained officer into an undefendable garrison. Basnet is the brother-in-law of the king's military attach?, Rishi Kumar Pandey.

Army sources say the Pili base camp was set up in a hurry without proper defences. But the army has vowed to resume the highway construction within a few days despite the setback.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)