Nepal's king declared a state of emergency on Monday after weekend attacks by rebels killed at least 76 soldiers and police, a palace announcement said.
King Gyanendra accepted a Cabinet recommendation that will allow the government to use the army for the first time to hunt down Maoist rebels fighting to establish a socialist state since 1996. The police were previously used against the rebels.
The Cabinet's recommendation came in the wake of a devastating rebel attack Sunday night that killed at least 34 soldiers, said police officers and government officials in a mountainous village.
The rebels also suffered heavy casualties in the attack in Solukhumbu, 125 miles northeast of Katmandu, said Interior Security Minister Khum Bahadur Khadka.
The total number of security forces and government officials killed has climbed to 76 since Friday, when the rebels, fighting for a socialist republic in Nepal, broke a four-month cease-fire and launched attacks across the Himalayan kingdom.
Airports and borders will remain open and government offices will function as normal, he said, but security will be beefed up across the nation.
The military and police were being mobilized to comb the hide-outs of the rebels, concentrated mostly in the remote hills of midwestern Nepal. Public activities by Maoists and publications supporting them have been banned.
On Wednesday, the rebel leader, known as Prachanda, called off peace talks with the government. He said attempts to find a peaceful settlement had failed after the government rejected his demand for a new constitution.
The government supports the constitutional monarchy with the king as the ceremonial head of the state. The present system was adopted in 1990, after a democratic movement toppled the absolute monarchy.
Thousands of guerrillas led by Prachanda, whose real name is Pushpa Kumar Dahal, have waged an insurgency in remote mountainous areas to end the monarchy and install a socialist republic in Nepal. The six-year campaign has claimed more than 1,800 lives.
The guerrillas fashion themselves after Peru's Shining Path guerrillas and follow the teachings of China's revolutionary communist leader Mao Tse-tung.
By Binaj Gurubacharya
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