Fear grows as Nepal church

escapes bomb attack

By Sudeshna Sarkar

Kathmandu, Aug 29 (IANS) 
Two years after a bomb attack on a church in Kathmandu valley killed three people during mass and injured nearly a dozen, Nepal’s minority Christian community feels under threat once more with another church in the remote west escaping a bomb attack.

On Sunday evening, while Nepal’s parliament was electing a new prime minister in Kathmandu, a bomb was discovered at the gate of the Aradhana Church run by the Assembly of God congregation in Khairapur, a village in farwestern Nepal.

“I saw a strange object at the door of the church around 6 p.m.,” said Indra Bishwakarma, a priest at the 15-year-old church. “When I went closer to inspect it, I saw metal scraps jutting out. I realised it was a bomb and called my two children, who were inside the church, to come out immediately. Then I informed police.”

A bomb disposal squad of the Nepal Army defused the bomb after nearly four hours.

The pastor said he had no personal enemies and the planting of the bomb seemed to be an act directed against the church.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the aborted attack.

In 2009, an underground organisation calling itself the Nepal Defence Army (NDA) and seeking the restoration of Hinduism as the state religion planted a bomb inside the Assumption Church prayer hall in Kathmandu valley, killing two women and a 14-year-old schoolgirl.

The previous year, the NDA bombed the Jyoti Church in western Nepal’s Banke district and a mosque in eastern Biratnagar, killing two men at prayer.

Led by a man called Ram Prasad Mainali, the NDA had been extorting churches and threatening Christians and Muslims, asking them to leave Nepal or face death.

Though Mainali was arrested in 2009, both Muslims and Christians are concerned at the erstwhile caretaker communist government’s decision to hold talks with the NDA and promise to withdraw cases against it and release all its arrested leaders once it hands over its arms.

“There were reports by police this year that Mainali was plotting from prison to bomb public places with the help of his accomplices,” said Chirendra Satyal, spokesman of the Assumption Church.

“He has the phone numbers of most of us and knows where we live. We feel threatened by the government’s gesture to regard him as a political party and release him.”