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24 dead in southern Nepal clashes

Story Highlights

• Women were among the dead in the fighting
• The clashes involved about 600 Maoist forces, 1200 MJF supporters
• Clashes come within months of peace deal between Maoists and government
• MJF wants more government representation
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KATHMANDU, Nepal (CNN) -- Hundreds of Maoist rebels clashed with an ethnic political group double their size in southern Nepal on Wednesday, police said.

At least 24 people, including women, died in the clash, which ignited because both groups had planned to hold a mass meeting at the same location, police said.

Dozens were injured in the fighting, which involved about 600 Maoist forces and 1,200 supporters of the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF), police spokesman Sushil Barsingh Thapa told CNN. The latter group has been demanding more rights and representation for the traditionally marginalized Madhesi people of southern Nepal.

Both groups wanted to meet at the same location in the town of Gaur, about 100 miles (160 km) south of Kathmandu near the India-Nepal border, Thapa said.

The Maoists and MJF supporters have clashed in recent weeks, but this is the first time that people have been killed.

Last November, the Maoists signed a peace deal with Nepal's government ending a decade of violent insurgency during which about 13,000 people were killed.

More than 30 MJF supporters were killed in January and February when its supporters clashed with police across southeastern Nepal.

Maoists claim that monarchists and Hindu fundamentalists are supporting the MJF in a conspiracy to keep them Maoists out of government.

Journalist Manesh Shrestha contributed to this report.

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