Kathmandu: During their decade-old armed revolt, Nepal's Maoist guerrillas amassed a veritable treasure trove by looting banks and the rich and collecting donations at gunpoint. But now, they find the tables have been turned against them with a buried cache worth over Nepali Rs 30 million vanishing from right under their nose.
The Communist rebels had buried a trove of over 20 kg of gold, cash and other valuables in a forest in an area regarded as their stronghold, even when the army was hunting them down.
The rebels had raided a series of banks in Jumla district in remote northern Nepal and buried the loot in the Bageshal forest in Mahadevpuri village in midwestern Dang district for safekeeping.
However, when they went back to the spot to retrieve their hidden treasure, to their shock, it was gone. Since then, the rebels have been frantically searching for the missing cache, Kantipur, Nepal's biggest selling daily, reported on Sunday.
The theft came to light after the Maoists recently "arrested" three villagers on the suspicion they were behind the theft. The villagers included the chairman of the organisation running the community forest.
However, when outraged villagers protested against the detention, the guerrillas were forced to release them, the daily said.
The leader of the rebels in Banke district, a guerrilla identified only as Athak, told the daily that the hidden haul vanished within 24 hours of being buried and some of the rebel cadres are under surveillance on the suspicion they had a hand in it.
The three villagers came under suspicion after their bank balance increased dramatically, Athak said.
The incident gives the guerrillas a dose of their own medicine. Dozens of banks in Nepal are yet to recover the money and valuables the rebels looted, despite a peace pact signed between them and the government.
The widespread displacement, caused by the insurgency, has also been hindering the Maoists' frantic attempt to trace the vanished trove.
Despite some house searches, the haul has not turned up since hundreds of people have left the villages to get jobs and residence abroad.
(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed)