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Nepal police kill protesters opposing new constitution

Nepali police have killed a four-year-old boy and three others after opening fire on protesters opposing the draft of a new constitution. At least 40 people have died since the draft was introduced in August.

At least four people - including a four-year-old boy - were killed on Wednesday when Nepali police opened fire on demonstrators protesting a draft constitution that would split the Himalayan country into seven federal provinces.

"The police fired teargas to try and disperse the crowd, but we unsuccessful. Then they resorted to rubber bullets," said police official Rajendra Dhakal.

"Police were forced to open fire because the protesters attacked them from all directions," Dhakal said.

The official added that live rounds were not used during the incident.

According to local police, the demonstrators attacked a 160-truck convoy being escorted by police.

At least five protesters and 20 police were injured in the clashes.

New constitution despite protests?

Critics of the new constitution - many of them from minority groups - have fiercely opposed clauses that would divide Nepal into seven federal provinces,

leaving them underrepresented in parliament

.

Another controversial clause called for the country to be officially deemed a Hindu nation, though it was struck down on Sunday when lawmakers began voting on elements of the new constitution.

The new constitution could be brought into effect by the president as early as September 20.

In 2008, Nepal began the process of drafting a new constitution following a

decade-long Maoist insurgency

. The civil war cost the lives of an estimated 16,000 people, and brought down the country's centuries-old Hindu monarchy.

More than 40 people have been killed since August when a draft of the new constitution was presented to the Himalayan country.

ls/jil (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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