KATHMANDU (AFP): Nepal’s crown prince shot dead his parents – the king and queen – and several other relatives during a family dinner at the royal palace here before turning the gun on himself, officials said this afternoon. King Birendra, Queen Aishwarya and nine other people were killed when Crown Prince Dipendra opened fire with a semi-automatic weapon during the family’s regular Friday dinner at the Narayan Hity Palace, they said. The 29-year-old heir to the throne of this small Himalayan kingdom then turned the gun on himself, said Deputy Prime Minister Ram Chandra Paudel. “It was the crown prince,” said Paudel. “This is the most unfortunate and shocking event in the history of the Nepalese royal family.” There were conflicting reports on the number of victims and the condition of the crown prince. The Nepalese state radio announced the deaths of only three people – the king and queen and their youngest son, Prince Nirajan. In a brief announcement today, more than 15 hours after the massacre, the official radio said the crown prince had been appointed Nepal’s new king by the State Council but was not in condition to rule. “As the new king is in serious condition in the intensive care unit in hospital, Prince Gyanendra, middle brother of the late King Birendra, has been appointed regent,” it said. Prince Gyanendra, 54, was staying at the winter palace in Pokhra at the time of the massacre and was flown to Kathmandu in an army helicopter today, officials said. Nepalese officials said as many as 12 people had died in the shooting at the royal palace, including the crown prince, who was in a coma on life support and had been pronounced “clinically dead”. Among the dead were the 55-year-old Harvard-educated King Birendra, his wife, Queen Aishwarya, 52, and their two other children, Prince Nirajan, 22, and Princess Shruti Rana, 24. King Birendra’s sisters — Princess Sharada Shaha and Princess Shanti Singh — also died along with Kumar Khadga Bikram Shah, the husband of Princess Sharada, and a cousin of King Birendra, Princess Jayanti Shah. The identities of the other three victims were not immediately known. King Birendra had ruled predominantly-Hindu Nepal as an absolute monarch from 1972 until 1990, when his role became purely constitutional in the wake of a pro-democracy movement.
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