Convoy of food, fuel enters Nepal capital on 3rd day of Maoists' crippling general strike

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Armed police escorted fuel and food trucks into Nepal's capital Tuesday on the third day of a crippling general strike called by former Maoist rebels demanding the prime minister's resignation, officials said.

A few trucks loaded with essential goods were brought into the city during the early hours of Tuesday, Home Ministry official Jaya Mukunda Khanal said. They were escorted by police vehicles on the highways and arrived without incident.

The opposition Maoists have imposed an indefinite general strike — banning all travel and preventing businesses and schools from opening under threat of violence — since Sunday demanding Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal resign and a new Maoist-led government take power.

The strike comes as Nepal is struggling to draft a new constitution by a May 28 deadline, when the term of the Constituent Assembly — which is to draft the charter — expires.

The Maoists and the political parties in power have failed to reach any agreement despite several meetings between their leaders on Sunday and Monday.

The standoff has raised fears of renewed violence in Nepal, where the Maoists ended their decade-old insurgency and joined a peace process in 2006. They won elections in 2008 and briefly led a coalition government, but a dispute over the army chief's firing split the coalition.

The strike has shut down most ground transport, schools, and businesses, grinding daily business down to a standstill.

It has also led to scattered violence. Maoist supporters vandalized several shops in Katmandu that had defied the strike and opened for business Tuesday, Khanal said, while television stations broadcast footage showing residents in one neighborhood beating up people trying to enforce the strike.

Maoists have allowed food shops to open for two hours in the evening, but stock is running low since the strike forbids trucks from bringing in goods on the highway or to the shops from wholesalers.

The government was also working on a plan to transport people who need to be immediately moved such as those who need medical attention, Khanal said.

Thousands of Maoist supporters held hands along a ring road that circles the Nepalese capital Tuesday, covering most of the 18-mile (28-kilometer) roadway. Maoist leaders, including their chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, drove around on the back of an open truck, cheering gathered supporters.