KATHMANDU, Dec 5: Nepali Congress leader and candidate for parliament from Kathmandu constituency-4 Gagan Thapa narrowly escaped what his party called "a murder attempt" when an unidentified group hurled an improvised explosive device (IED) at him in the capital on Monday.
The attack happened at noon in Buddhanilkanta of Kathmandu when Thapa was campaigning. At least ten other NC supporters were injured in the blast, according to police.
In a statement, NC identified the injured as Dhurba Khadka, Jayaraj Lammichhane, Rajkaji Shrestha, Shyamkrishna Shrestha, Suman Khadka, Rabindra Karki, Pushpa Bahadur Shrestha, Radhika Karki, Kashilal Shrestha, Rima Basnet and Roshan Ram Thapa.
"NC would like to appeal to the government to book the assailants and provide treatment to the injured," NC said in a statement, describing the repeated bomb attacks a threat to democracy.
Interestingly, NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba himself is leading the government and concurrently oversees the Home Ministry.
Thapa was rushed to the TU Teaching Hospital in Maharajgunj for treatment. Thapa who suffered minor injuries to the head, legs, hands and chest was discharged after preliminary treatment. Other injured including five people who are reported to be in serious condition, are receiving treatment at the TU Teaching Hospital.
Thapa is the latest target of a series of attack to occur in the country in the run-up to the second phase of the parliamentary and provincial elections. The elections have been described as the cornerstone for Nepal's stability, as well as a test for Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba to prove his democratic credentials and ability to hold elections.
More than three dozen leaders have become targets of bomb attacks since the candidacy nomination last month. Some other high-profile targets include Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, UML Chair KP Sharma Oli, and CPN (Maoist Center) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal. Similarly, second-rung leaders like Barsaman Pun, Krishna Bahadur Mahara, Upendra Yadav and Ram Sharan Basnet among others were also targeted.
Monday's attack, which comes a day after the security agencies deployed additional boots on the ground, has triggered widespread concerns.
Political parties and rights groups have asked the government to tighten security to create atmosphere for free and fair elections. On Sunday, the Ministry of Home Affairs had claimed that it had deployed more security personnel on the ground.
"The National Human Rights Commission is deeply concerned over the bomb attacks on election candidates in Tehrathhum, Syangja, Sarlahi, Palpa, Dadeldhura, Kailali as well as in the capital city," NHRC said in a statement, urging the government to take necessary measures to maintain law and order during polls.
Nepal had not seen poll-related violence of this scale since the Maoist rebels entered mainstream politics ending a decade-long armed insurgency in 2006. The growing numbers of physical attacks on candidates and supporters of political parties have badly hit the election campaigns and could have an adverse impact on voter turn-out, according to observers.