KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) – Suspected communist guerrillas shot a policeman and set off two bombs in Katmandu on Friday while keeping up a blockade that has isolated the capital since midweek to press demands for the release of rebels held by Nepal’s government.

A few hours later, the Cabinet promised to meet one rebel demand – that the government account for suspected rebels missing since apparent arrests. But it was not clear if officials also would agree to demands for immediately freeing known rebel prisoners and removing their “terrorist” label.

There was no immediate reaction from the rebels, who have been fighting since 1996 to replace the monarchy in this Himalayan nation with a communist state.

Early in the day, gunmen wounded a policeman guarding the Land Revenue Office in the heart of Katmandu, then put a bomb under a staircase at the agency.

Hundreds of people waiting to pay land taxes, transfer land ownership and settle disputes stampeded out of the building after the shooting, and the bomb exploded minutes later, witnesses said. “People were screaming and jumping over walls,” said Mukesh Sharma, a lawyer.

No serious injuries were reported from the blast, but doctors said the policeman suffered critical head and chest wounds from bullets.

Later an explosion blasted an empty police post on the city’s outskirts, along a highway linking Nepal with Tibet. No one was hurt.

At an emergency meeting Friday, the Cabinet agreed that an investigation and report on missing people would be conducted within a month, Information Minister Mohammed Mohsin said. He didn’t say if the other rebel demands were being considered.

The government also repeated its offer to resume negotiations for a peaceful resolution of the war, which has killed more than 9,500 people, mostly in remote rural areas.

The bombings came on the third day of a rebel blockade that has shut down Katmandu’s road links with the rest of the country, even though the insurgents haven’t set up a single roadblock. Despite beefed-up police patrols, the rebels’ threat to attack any vehicles on the roads has been enough to shut down nearly all civilian traffic.

A heavily guarded convoy of six buses left Thursday, apparently without incident, and at least three dozen buses and cars also made their way out of town under army escort Friday. But some taxi drivers who had been waiting to take passengers on the main highway changed their minds after the bombings.

“We could easily be the next victims. No one knows where the bombs will come from,” said driver Kami Gurung. “It is just not worth the risk.”

Roads are vital for Katmandu, which has no railroads. Most of the city’s food, fuel and other supplies are trucked in, and the blockade has left stores short of fresh produce and cooking fuel.

Officials said Katmandu had enough food staples such as rice and flour to last a month, but prices for vegetables, fruits and other perishable goods were skyrocketing.

“Tomatoes were just 25 rupees (30 cents) per kilogram (2.2 pounds) two days ago. Now it is twice that much. The poor people will starve if this continues,” said a housewife, Tara Maharjan, at the main vegetable market.


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