|Wikileaks:||View 02KATHMANDU509 at Wikileaks.org|
|Classification:||UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY|
|Tags:||SENV PGOV PTER EAID ASEC SOCI NP Maoist Insurgency|
|Redacted:||This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KATHMANDU 000509 SIPDIS DEPT FOR SA/INS, OES AND DS/OP/NEA DEPT OF INTERIOR FOR U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICE LONDON FOR POL/RIEDEL SENSITIVE E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: SENV, PGOV, PTER, EAID, ASEC, SOCI, NP, Maoist Insurgency SUBJECT: MAOIST AMBUSH MARS ANNUAL RHINO RELOCATION REF: KATHMANDU 498 This message is sensitive but unclassified. It is not intended for distribution outside official USG channels. 1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Maoist insurgents killed two Royal Nepalese Army soldiers near Royal Chitwan National Park on March 10 just hours after the start of the annual relocation of rhinos from Chitwan to Royal Bardiya National Park. The subsequent army cordoning of the area forced four trucks carrying rhinos to stop by the side of the highway for about three hours. The rhino relocation is continuing. However, the incident again demonstrates the wide-ranging disruptions in Nepal caused by the armed insurgency and the strain on both civilian government and military assets that has resulted from Maoist terror. End summary. 2. (U) The annual rhinoceros relocation from Chitwan to Bardiya national parks, held under the auspices of the King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation (KMTNC) and sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and others, began successfully on March 10 and was proceeding according to plan. Shortly after the first four (out of ten planned) rhinos were crated and put on trucks, a Maoist attack killed two Army personnel riding in a private truck on the Mugling to Narayangadh road. (Note: although this is part of the main highway from Kathmandu to the Indian border, it is a number of miles from Chitwan, and not on the route the rhinos were taking to Bardiya). The Army promptly cordoned off the entire area around the town of Bharatpur and Chitwan National Park, forcing the four trucks carrying the rhinos to halt by the side of the road. The trucks with the rhinos were allowed to continue on towards Bardiya National Park about three hours later. 3. (SBU) The poaching of two rhinos from national parks for their horns, valued in tradition Chinese medicine, in the previous two weeks had already cast a pall over the annual relocation. King Mahendra Trust director Arup Rajouria (whose predecessor is now Nepal's Ambassador to the U.S.) told us the organizers had even considered postponing the operation. Nevertheless, this year's relocation attracted a high-level contingent of observers from the Government of Nepal, WWF, UNDP, several Kathmandu- based embassies (including Ambassadors and Emboffs from the U.S., China, Australia, and France) and other international organizations. Many, but not all, of the international observers had departed the area by the time the attack occurred. 4. (SBU) WWF Nepal head Chandra Gurung told us that his delegation had just missed becoming eyewitnesses to the attack as they were returning by road to Kathmandu from the national park. According to Gurung, the Maoists detonated a device by remote control from some nearby hills, then fired on the truck carrying the soldiers. An ensuing firefight produced several more injuries among army troops, and some witnesses reported dead or wounded insurgents being carried away. Gurung speculated that the Maoists must have had excellent intelligence as well as communications ability to be able to target this particular unmarked truck -- unless they were actually targeting Minister of State for Forests and Conservation Hamal, who had passed by the site earlier (unlikely). (Note: septel will cover reports that both Hamal and his superior, Minister Gopal Man Shrestha, resigned on March 11 on unrelated corruption allegations). Gurung confirmed that the rhinos did reach Bardiya on the morning of March 11 and were released as planned, and that the relocation project was continuing. 5. (SBU) Comment: The attack in the general area of Chitwan -- a magnet for the remaining tourists in Nepal, and which had previously been considered relatively safe from the threat of Maoist terrorism -- underscores the point made in reftel. The insurgency is straining Government of Nepal and Royal Nepalese Army resources, causing them to redeploy forces away from environmentally sensitive areas like the national parks. The result has been a vacuum that both the Maoist insurgents and criminal poachers have rushed to exploit. In this case, the victims have included not only the police and army officers assassinated by the Maoists, and Nepal's helpless civilian population, but also Nepal's equally defenseless wildlife -- a national treasure and an asset of truly global significance. However, we do not believe that the attack was timed to coincide with the rhino relocation. The Maoists' target was, once more, the Royal Nepalese Army, not the international observers at the rhino relocation event. MALINOWSKI
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