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Communist rebels attack Nepalese army barracks

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KATHMANDU, Nepal (CNN) -- At least 190 fighters have been killed in a fierce overnight clash between Maoist rebels and Nepal's army.

Rebels launched the offensive in western Nepal at 10:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m. ET) Saturday, attacking a police post, army barracks and a district office in Beni in the western district of Myandgi, Gurung said.

The offensive ended 12 hours later. Bad weather and difficult terrain made it impossible for army helicopters to reach the area.

A Maoist source put the total dead at under 200 -- 40 rebels and 150 security personnel -- and said 250 security personnel were wounded.

But a Nepal army spokesman said as many as 500 rebels were killed. His figures had 11 soldiers and seven police killed, and another 200 rebels wounded.

The fighting took place in Beni, 175 miles west of Kathmandu, army spokesman Col. Deepak Gurung told reporters.

It was apparently the fiercest fighting in nearly nine years of the "People's War" led by the Maoists, who want to replace Nepal's constitutional monarchy with a communist republic.

The weekend combat was the second major offensive in a district headquarters since a cease-fire between the rebels and the government collapsed in August.

Earlier in Bhojpur in eastern Nepal, at least 30 security personnel were killed in an overnight raid by the Maoists. The government says 60 rebels also died in the encounter.

The fresh offensive comes amid government claims that the security forces have decimated the Maoist firepower and the rebels are on the defensive.

Nepal's King Gyanendra is slated to visit the western regional headquarters on March 28.

More than 1,547 Maoists have been killed since August, according to the Royal Nepal Army, which puts its own toll for the period at 144.

Journalist Akhilesh Upadhyay in Kathmandu contributed to this report

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