Nepal police firing kills five protesters

Nepal police firing kills five protesters

KATHMANDU - Five demonstrators died Tuesday after being shot by police in Nepal as anger deepened over the country's draft constitution.

Police shot dead four people from the Madhesi ethnic minority in separate incidents in the south of the country.

Three were killed Tuesday after defying a curfew imposed in the town of Birgunj, 90 kilometres (55 miles) south of Kathmandu.

A fourth died in hospital Tuesday in Birgunj after being hit the day before.

Another man was killed in the nearby town of Kalaiya when officers fired into a crowd trying to set fire to a police station, said national police spokesman Kamal Singh Bam.

Anger has been building for weeks in southern Nepal after lawmakers - spurred by April's devastating earthquake to resolve political differences - struck a breakthrough deal on a new constitution which has angered minority communities.

"Security forces opened fire at the protesters after they forced their way into a restricted area," said Bam, speaking of Tuesday's clashes in Birgunj.

"Three people were shot dead and at least 20 others including police were injured during the clashes," Bam told AFP.

News of the deaths comes a week after violent clashes in southwestern Nepal in which eight police officers and an 18-month-old boy were killed, prompting the government to deploy troops.

The constitution was meant to cement peace after a 10-year insurgency led by former Maoist rebels ended in 2006, and to draw a line under centuries of inequality.

But plans laid out in the draft charter to divide the Himalayan nation into seven provinces have sparked fury among historically marginalised communities including the Madhesis, who say the new borders will limit their political representation.

The growing discord prompted lawmakers from a regional party representing the Madhesis to walk out of the constituent assembly last month and throw their weight behind the protesters.

Tuesday's deaths bring to 10 the number of anti-constitution protesters killed since clashes with police broke out last month.

Lawmakers began working on a new national constitution in 2008, two years after the end of the Maoist insurgency that left an estimated 16,000 people dead and brought down the 240-year-old Hindu monarchy.

But negotiations faltered over the issue of internal borders and the resulting uncertainty left Nepal - one of the world's poorest countries - in political limbo.

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