General strike shuts much of southern Nepal after 3 killed

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — A general strike called by ethnic groups a day after police fire killed at least three protesters has shut down markets, schools and transport in much of southern Nepal on Tuesday.

Police opened fire Monday on protesters attempting to disrupt a political rally, killing at least three and wounding dozens, in southern Nepal, which has been hit by violent protests over the last year.

Home Ministry official Bal Krishna Panthi said police first tried to disperse the protesters with bamboo batons and tear gas before firing their guns.

He said three people were fatally shot and 33 police officers were injured in the clash. He could not say how many protesters were hurt.

Police stepped up security Tuesday in south Nepal towns and increased patrols on highways, which was mostly deserted because of the general strike.

The violence Monday happened after the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist) attempted to hold a rally in Rajbiraj town, 400 kilometers (250 miles) southwest of the capital Kathmandu. Ethnic Madhesi groups oppose the party and have vowed to stop its rallies.

The Communist Party of Nepal was in power and its leader Khadga Prasad Oli was prime minister when the Madhesis held protests between August 2015 and February 2016 when Oli rejected their demands for changes to a new constitution that would give the ethnic group more territory in proposed federal states.

The protests shut down southern Nepal towns for months, blocking the border with India and stopping the supply of fuel and medicine.

The protests eventually fizzled out and a new administration that took power in August 2016 promised to address the demands by the Madhesi, although that is still being considered in parliament.

The protests have been held in south Nepal towns since Saturday and come ahead of district and municipal elections set for May.

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