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Sunday, Aug 31, 2014

Asia

Britain's MI6 aided torture of Nepal Maoists, book claims

AFP | Sunday, Aug 31, 2014

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj (L) and Nepalese Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, also known as Prachanda, shake hands during a meeting in Kathmandu on July 26, 2014.

KATHMANDU - British authorities funded a four-year-long intelligence operation in Nepal that led to Maoist rebels being arrested, tortured and killed during the country's civil war, according to the author of a new book on Kathmandu.

Launched in 2002, "Operation Mustang" targeted Maoist guerillas and saw British intelligence agency MI6 fund safe houses and provide training in surveillance and counter-insurgency tactics to Nepal's army and spy agency, the National Investigation Department (NID), writer Thomas Bell told AFP Saturday.

Nepal's decade-long civil war left more than 16,000 dead, with rebels and security forces accused of serious human rights violations including killings, rapes, torture and disappearances.

"According to senior Nepalese intelligence and army officials involved in the operation, British aid greatly strengthened their performance and led to about 100 arrests," said Bell, whose book "Kathmandu" hits stores in South Asia on Thursday.

"It's difficult to put an exact number on it, but certainly some of those who were arrested were tortured and disappeared," he said.

Maoist commander Sadhuram Devkota, known by his nom-de-guerre "Prashant", was among those captured during "Operation Mustang" in November 2004. Six weeks later, he was found hanging from a low window in his cell, with officials saying he had committed suicide.

Despite protests, no independent investigation was ever carried out.

British authorities helped construct a bug-proof building in the NID headquarters, created a secure radio network for communications and supplied everything from cameras to computers to mobile phones and night vision binoculars, according to Bell's sources in the Nepalese security establishment.

"The agency also sent a small number of British officers to Nepal, around four or five -- some tied to the embassy, others operating separately," Bell said.

The officers gave the Nepalese training in how to place bugs, how to penetrate rebel networks and how to groom informers.

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