KATHMANDU: A crude bomb exploded early on election day in Nepal on Tuesday, injuring three children as voters turned out for a poll seen as crucial in stabilizing the Himalayan country after a civil war.
The explosive planted in a middle-class residential neighbor-hood in the capital Kathmandu went off three hours after polling stations opened, with another five hoax bombs recovered by police on Monday.
“I was passing by when I saw three children lying on the ground, crying for help,” said 28-year-old eyewitness Saroj Maharjan at the scene, where voters said they were now terrified.
“One of the children, whose face was covered in blood, fainted in my arms as I carried him to a nearby hospital,” he added.
Police said an eight-year-old had picked up the bomb shortly before it detonated, assuming it to be a toy.
A splinter faction of the Maoist party has vowed to disrupt the poll, undermining the objective of producing a constituent assembly of national unity, which must write a new constitution.
A first assembly elected in 2008, two years after the end of fighting by Maoists, was dominated by the former rebels but was riven with divisions and highly unstable.
Five prime ministers served brief terms, for long periods the country had no leader, and the 601-member body collapsed in 2012 after failing to agree on a new constitution.
Organizing the election has been a logistical headache in a country home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, requiring the use of helicopters, horses and porters to deliver ballot boxes to remote areas.
Hopes of reconciliation between the country’s politicians were dashed by the decision of a 33-party alliance, led by the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M), to disrupt the polls and intimidate voters.
In recent days, they have torched vehicles and hurled explosives at traffic to protest that the vote is being held under an interim administration headed by the chief justice of the Supreme Court.
They wanted a cross-party government in place, which would include them.