Communist rebels attacked a mountainous town in northwestern Nepal (search) overnight, killing at least one soldier and bombing several government buildings, officials said Sunday.

Five policemen were missing and believed to be held hostage by the rebels.

Hundreds of rebels surrounded Khalanga (search), 375 miles northwest of Katmandu, around midnight and bombed the police station, the land revenue office and an administrative building, an army official said.

The attack closed the airstrip and knocked down communication lines.

The police station was empty at the time of the attack as the policemen were sleeping at a nearby army base for security reasons, or the casualty could have been higher, the official said.

Army helicopters fired from the air chasing the attackers, and soldiers pursued them on the ground in the remote mountainous region of the Himalayan nation. No roads link the town to the rest of the country.

About 20 months ago, a major rebel attack left 118 people killed, including 60 government troops.

Fighting between the rebels, who say they are inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong (search), and government forces has escalated since the guerrillas withdrew from a seven-month cease-fire last August.

The rebels have been fighting since February 1996 to replace Nepal's monarchy with a communist state. The insurgency has claimed more than 9,500 lives.

The last peace talks broke down in August 2003 when the rebels walked out. The government repeated its offer last week to resume negotiations. The rebels have not responded.