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Bomb hits Bhutan ahead of election to end royal rule

By Agencies


A bomb blast hit the tiny Himalayan nation of Bhutan, and local officials Tuesday blamed communist rebels living as refugees in neighboring Nepal and seeking to disrupt next month’s elections.

No one was injured in Monday’s explosion in the southwestern Samtse district, and police later recovered two unexploded bombs from the scene, deputy police chief Kipchu Namgyel said.

“We have evidence to suggest that cadres of the Nepal-based Communist Party of Bhutan were behind the attack,” Namgyel told The Associated Press by phone from the capital Thimphu. He said officials found Communist Party of Bhutan leaflets at the bomb scene threatening to stop the elections.

He said the same rebels were behind four blasts last month. The January 20 bombs injured only one person, but sent shock waves across Bhutan, a nation not used to such violence.

The party, a small rebel group that is frequently on the move, could not be reached for comment Tuesday. They sometimes send statements to media in Nepal, but have not commented on any of the recent blasts.

More than 100,000 ethnic Nepalis - a Hindu minority in Bhutan - fled or were forced to leave the country in the early 1990s by authorities who wanted to impose Buddhist culture nationwide.

Bhutan has refused to take the refugees back, saying most left voluntarily, an argument the Nepalis hotly dispute. Several rebel groups - all communist - have risen in the refugee camps in eastern Nepal where most of the ethnic Nepalis from Bhutan now live.

Elections to introduce democracy in the Buddhist kingdom, where monarchs reign supreme, are scheduled for March 24. The king will remain as a figurehead after the vote.

The rebels have said the elections will not be fair because ethnic Nepalis from Bhutan have been excluded from the process. (AP)