KATHMANDU, June 22: Seven Maoists and a civilian were killed in a gunfight between rebels and the army last week in western Nepal during the deadliest clash since the two sides entered a ceasefire in January, an official said on Sunday.

A defence ministry statement last week reported the incident without providing a death toll.

A defence ministry official told AFP the Maoists opened fire on Wednesday in the western district of Jajarkot after demanding an army-run humanitarian team retreat from a village that is a rebel stronghold.

“The team refused to retreat and the Maoists opened fire. There were no casualties among the army,” he said.

“Our team fired in retaliation, resulting in the deaths of seven Maoists including one of their local unit heads. A civilian was killed in the crossfire.”

He identified the dead civilian as Purna Bahadur Giri, 30.

The army team was trying to head to the Namidanda area to provide medical treatment to villagers and launch infrastructure projects, including the construction of a facility to bring clean drinking water, officials said.

A defence ministry statement last week detailed the incident without providing a death toll. It said around 300 Maoists were involved in the clash and about half as many in the army team.

In the statement, the defence ministry accused the Maoists of “irresponsible action” that could “jeopardise the ongoing peace dialogue.”—AFP

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