Maoist Rebels Release 90 Students in Nepal

Communist rebels have freed 90 high school students who were seized from their classrooms last week, officials said Monday.

The students, who were reported to be in good health, returned home Sunday to the village of Paudiamrai, about 200 miles west of Katmandu, said Durga Pokhrel, the chief administrative officer of Gulmi district.

Authorities had been alarmed earlier because the students had been missing for five days. Rebels typically hold abductees only for two or three days.

Officials said the rebels have been abducting large groups of students in remote villages to teach them about their nine-year revolution, aimed at replacing the government with a communist regime.

The latest abduction was of about 90 ninth- and tenth-grade students last Wednesday, the military said. The village, in a remote and mountainous part of Gumli district, is mostly controlled by the insurgents.

The district's police chief, Bikram Gurung had said police were concerned but did not send any rescue mission to the area, considered a dangerous zone. There are no army or police bases nearby.

There have been increasing reports of such abductions in the region, Pokhrel said. The students are typically taken from their schools and kept by the rebels for two or three days to be indoctrinated in communist ideology before being released, he said.

About 250 students were taken from a nearby village on June 15 and sent back three days later.

The guerrillas have stepped up violence since King Gyanendra (search) took absolute power in February promising to quell the insurgency.

The rebels, who claim to be inspired by Chinese revolutionary Mao Zedong (search), have been fighting since 1996 to abolish Nepal's (search) constitutional monarchy and set up a communist state. The insurgency has left more than 11,500 people dead.