Kathmandu shock as royals massacred


Nepalis were in shock on Saturday after the king and queen were shot dead and their family massacred, but few could believe official reports that they were killed by Crown Prince Dipendra.

The reports said Dipendra shot his parents and up to 11 members of his family before turning his gun on himself. He has since been declared king despite being in a coma.

But many people in the streets of Kathmandu, the capital of this impoverished Himalayan kingdom, were skeptical that Dipendra could have killed his father, whom they revered as the incarnation of Hindu god Vishnu.

Hundreds of anxious and confused Nepalis milled around near the royal palace demanding to be told the truth and booing armed police who kept them from the palace.

“Our king, our land is dearer to us than our lives!” the crowd shouted. “Tell us the real truth.”

“People want to know what happened. Everybody is shocked but nobody’s telling us the true story,” said Manohar Singh, standing on Darbar Road leading to the palace.

“They all want to walk to the palace. They are being stopped,” he added as the crowd booed the police.

State radio confirmed the deaths of King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya, but gave no details of the massacre. It played somber music, breaking off only to announce the official confirmation of the deaths and funeral arrangements.

Some people in the crowd called for Prime Minister B.P. Koirala to be hanged for keeping the “truth under wraps”.

At one point the police charged with batons, causing a minor stampede. The crowd gathered again minutes later as police nervously clutched their guns.

With Dipendra in a coma, the Privy Council named his father’s brother as regent. How could it happen? Earlier Home (Interior) Minister Ram Chandra Poudel told Reuters that the heir to the throne shot his parents and then himself.

There was speculation that Dipendra had killed his parents after a row over his choice of bride.

“How could it happen in the high-security palace? It is baffling,” Rajendra Dahal, editor of the fortnightly Himal new magazine told Reuters. “There are lot of questions still unanswered.”

The city was calm but tense as it prepared for the state funeral.

Thousands of mourners have poured onto the streets. Some waved the national flag, many watched from windows overlooking the route to the palace.

Police diverted traffic away from the palace whose gates remained closed.

Shops were closed and there was little traffic on the roads. A few wary foreign tourists clicked photographs of the crowd.

“It is all very unbelievable. Very unusual. What can I say now? It has never happened anywhere else in the world and now it happens here. All I can do is pray for peace in our country,” said computer dealer Ashish Shakya, who was visibly shaken.

“I heard last night he (the king) had died and I came to the palace. It was all very quiet here, very difficult to believe he had died. But it seems he has.”

King Birendra was due to be cremated later on Saturday on the banks of the Bagmati river near the famous Hindu temple of Lord Pashupatinath.