Nepali Times Asian Paints
From The Nepali Press
"This is a major disaster"

The Maoists had sent a letter to the RNA last month threatening to attack the garrison guarding Kolti airport in which they boasted they could take over without even firing a shot, just by rolling boulders down from the surrounding hills. The RNA's Far-western Division took this threat seriously and rushed reinforcements and kept helicopters in Kathmandu on standby. But it now appears that the threat itself was a diversion and the plan all along was to attack Pili which was similarly vulnerable. From the looks of it the RNA has suffered a serious human and material loss. Said one army officer: 'This is a major disaster in the army's recent history- the captured arms could invite another big loss.'

The role of the army garrison was to guard the explosives used in road construction. Only 19 of the weapons from the camp have been recovered. If the Maoist western division commander Prabhakar (Janardan Sharma) is to be believed, the Maoists have looted a lot of dynamite and guns-much more than what they looted in the previous largest attack so far in Ghorahi in 2001.

Prabhakar told Rajdhani his forces had captured an 81 mm mortar with 250 rounds, two two-inch mortars with 150 rounds, two LMGs with 5,000 rounds of ammunition, 70 INSAS rifles with 30,000 bullets and 80 SLRs with 21,000 bullets.

The attack was not a surprise. There were reports from a Maoist captured on 25 July that a big attack was planned. Travellers on the road had also spoken of three Maoist brigades massing along the Accham-Kalikot border area. The Maoists appear to have planned their attack well: on a vulnerable base where air support and even surface reinforcements would be difficult. So why did the army choose such a weak spot? According to Min Bahadur Shahi of the non-profit group, KIRDARC the reason could be that there is a village nearby and where there is a water source.

This has is the first-ever attack on an army road unit. The RNA seems to have believed that the Maoists wouldn't attack a road unit, but the rebels made no secret of the fact that they treat the Karnali Highway as a strategic threat to their base area.

To be sure the Maoists have suffered a series of defeats since February First, leading ex-generals like Bharat Keshari Singh to proclaim that they had been weakened. The Maoists were mauled in Khara, Rukum, Rolpa, Bardiya, Pandaun, etc. The Maoist guerrillas attacking Pili were from the same units that fought in the previous battles in the west.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)