Battle of Beni

Nepali Times issue #189 26 March – 1 April 2004

On 20 March 2004, Nepalis woke up to the news of one of the biggest and bloodiest battles in the Maoist conflict till then. The night before, a 5,000-strong guerrilla force attacked government and military targets starting 10:30PM in a battle that lasted all night long and left 140 dead. 

The Maoists also abducted CDO Sagar Mani Parajuli, DSP Rana Bahadur Gautam and other 40 security personnel, bargaining for the release of their commanders including Netra Bikram Chand, and Nanda Bahadur Pun who went on to become Vice President.

Excerpts of the report by Thomas Bell published 20 years ago this week on issue #189 26 March – 1 April 2004:

It is the morning after in Beni and a scene of utter devastation. The police station is a blackened wreck. The barbed wire had been clipped away and the perimeter wall blasted open at several points. Sandbags at the sentry posts are torn to shreds. Near the army base, a woman is washing the bloodstain from the steps outside her shop, while her daughter looks on.

Police and soldiers fought all night until six the next morning against thousands of Maoists, until their ammunition ran out. Those who survived either fled, or were taken prisoner. Down the road, the soldiers at the army base kept fighting till daylight and most of their casualties took place in the morning.

Next door, the CDO building has been reduced to rubble, and is still smouldering. People pick their way around in silence, their faces covered, glancing at the grotesquely disfigured Maoist corpses that lie strewn about.

Some 25 mortar rounds and a rocket landed here, fired from the mountains above. Whoever decided to put the district headquarters here at the confluence of the Kali Gandaki and Myagdi wasn't thinking of security.

"They came in waves, like the sea, one after another, one after another," said Lt Col Raghu Nepali, looking exhausted after two nights without sleep. "There were more women than men. And many, many child soldiers, below 14. I saw them while I was shooting back."

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