Nepal Rebels Free 8 of 11 Abducted Soldiers

Nepal's communist rebels on Saturday freed eight of the 11 soldiers abducted on their way home just hours after the rebels announced a three-month unilateral cease-fire.

The freed soldiers were handed over to representatives of INSEC-Nepal, a human rights group, at Jitpur village, about 500 kilometers (310 miles) east of Katmandu, on Saturday, the group said in a statement.

The condition and whereabouts of the three remaining soldiers were still unknown.

The rebels had taken captive the unarmed 11 soldiers on Thursday just hours after the rebels declared a three-month cease-fire to give the reinstated Parliament a chance to return peace to the Himalayan country following weeks of often violent protests against the king's royal dictatorship.

Earlier, the National Human Rights Commission issued a statement Saturday urging the safe and unconditional release of the unarmed men.

On Thursday, the Maoist's elusive leader, Prachanda, announced his fighters would not launch any attacks during the three-month period.

The cease-fire announcement followed a near-three-week campaign of protests by a coalition of Nepal's seven main political parties that forced King Gyanendra to give up direct rule over the government he seized last year and reinstate Parliament.

The rebels had backed the campaign and expressed willingness to talk peace with the new government, which resumed its political powers on Friday.

The rebels, who claim to be inspired by Chinese revolutionary Mao Zedong, began their violent campaign to replace the monarchy with a communist state in 1996. The insurgency has left more than 13,000 dead.