Hundreds Arrested In Nepalese Protests

Nepalese armed soldiers patrol the darkened streets of Katmandu under a daytime curfew January 20, 2006. King Gyanedra's government has ordered the curfew, cutting phone lines and Internet and arresting anti-government activists to stop a rally called by opposition parties against the royalist government. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)
Police in riot gear fired tear gas Saturday to disperse pro-democracy activists who defied a ban on rallies in the capital and protested King Gyanendra's seizure of absolute power last year. At least 200 people were arrested and 50 injured.

Hundreds of police fired several rounds of tear gas shells to disperse small groups of protesters who emerged from alleyways in central Katmandu chanting "Down with autocracy, we want democracy." Many of the protesters hurled stones and scuffled with the police.

Security officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to policy, said they had orders to enforce a ban on rallies in Katmandu.

An Associated Press reporter at the scene said he saw 200 people being taken away in police vehicles and that 50 people had been injured, including six police officers.

The crackdown followed a series of raids in which security forces have detained senior politicians, student leaders and rights activists in recent days.

On Friday, several opposition leaders were placed under house arrest and more than 200 activists detained in an attempt to thwart protests against Gyanendra, who took power last year when he sacked an interim government.