Accused in mass slaying, Nepal’s King Dipendra dies in a hospital
KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) – Two days after being named to Nepal’s throne, King Dipendra died Monday, a royal official said. The king had reportedly been on life support systems after allegedly shooting himself and most of the royal family.
A member of the State Council, a government body that deals with royal affairs, told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that Dipendra died at an army hospital in Katmandu.
The announcement was the latest in an amazing series of events that began Friday night, when Dipendra is believed to have gone on a shooting spree, killing eight members of his family before shooting himself. Among them were the king and queen – his parents.
A meeting of the State Council was called for later Monday to formally declare the death and proclaim Dipendra’s uncle, Prince Gyanendra, as the country’s new king.
There was no official announcement from the government or the royal palace.
At the palace, where any coronation ceremony would take place, police said they were told early Monday to make tight security arrangements.
Gyanendra has been serving as acting king since the massacre, and many Nepalese have said they would accept him as king because they could not accept Dipendra, who they blamed for the shootings.
The 29-year-old Dipendra had reportedly been on life support systems since the shooting, which officials said was the result of an argument in which his mother had rejected his choice of a bride because of her clan.
”The king died very early this morning,” the State Council member said
The coronation of a new king could help put Nepal on a path of recovery from the national nightmare of a blood bath that had not been explained, three days later. While the royal family technically had no political power, they are revered in Nepal, and King Birendra – Dipendra’s father – was viewed by many as an incarnation of the Hindu deity Vishnu.
Gyanendra issued a statement Sunday that only served to confuse matters, saying the royal killings were the result of ”accidental” automatic weapons fire. Numerous officials have said privately that Dipendra had been the gunman, but publicly they have stayed distant from that explanation. While Dipendra was clinically dead, he was also technically the king and in Nepal monarchs are above reproach.
Nine people – including Dipendra – died in the shooting, including King Birendra, 55, Queen Aiswarya, 51 and Dipendra’s siblings, Prince Nirajan, 22, and Princess Shruti, 24.
The royal family had gathered for dinner to discuss the wedding of Dipendra. Sources close to the family said that the prince wished to marry the daughter of a former government minister who is a member of the aristocratic Rana family, which ruled Nepal until 1951.
Many found Gyanendra’s explanation of the incident preposterous.
”How can a gun go off and shoot a dozen people in all different directions?” asked Dhan Gurung, a rickshaw driver. ”This is ridiculous.”
”I’ve been in the army, and I know,” agreed Bal Bahadur Tamang, a retiree out shopping. ”There is no such thing as a freak accident like this. Accidents can claim one life, but not spray bullets over eight people.”
On Sunday, an old photograph of Dipendra in royal attire ran on page one of the government newspaper, The Rising Nepal. The newspaper mentioned no gunfire and said the previous king had died in ”an unanticipated incident.”
Prime Minister Girija Prasada Koirala said late Saturday that the government would investigate the killings, but he may have been seeking to preserve calm, since only the king can order investigations into matters involving the royal family.
Koirala had visited Dipendra and three injured royal family members in the military hospital Sunday.
During a royal funeral procession at sunset Saturday, hundreds of thousands of mourners lined the streets. They wailed, clasped their hands in respect and offered flowers as the bodies were taken for cremation according to Hindu rites.
Some suspected the government in the palace massacre. Officials have said there was no involvement by Maoist rebels who have sought to overthrow the monarchy.
Birendra was remembered Sunday as a monarch who used his influence to improve things for this highly impoverished, predominantly Hindu nation which only opened to the outside world a half-century ago.
”We have, in short, lost a visionary monarch who ably guided his nation through thick and thin,” The Katmandu Post said in a front-page editorial. ”It will no doubt be difficult to replace such a leader who had won the people’s heart and symbolized Nepal’s move toward a modern era.”
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