Gyanendra named King as Nepal mystery deepens

Nepal proclaimed its second new king in two days today, naming acting regent Prince Gyanendra as monarch following a mysterious…

Nepal proclaimed its second new king in two days today, naming acting regent Prince Gyanendra as monarch following a mysterious palace massacre which has rocked the Himalayan kingdom to its foundations.

The announcement by state radio followed the death on Monday of King Dipendra, who had been critically injured in the palace carnage in which his father, mother and six other relatives died.

"King Dipendra has passed away at 3.45 a.m. His Royal Highness Gyanendra has been proclaimed king in accordance with the constitution," state radio said.

Dipendra had been in a coma since Friday when he either mowed down his family in a hail of automatic rifle fire following a row over his choice of bride, or suffered fatal injuries when an AK-47 inexplicably "exploded" and wiped out his family.

Gyanendra, who was named Prince Regent after the incident, said Friday's massacre was an accident, but at least one senior official said earlier that Dipendra was responsible.

Shock and mourning in Nepal was fast turning to anger today as people demanded to know more about the circumstances behind the slaying of King Birendra, Queen Aishwarya and six other royals.

Analysts say the royal massacre could have a major impact on stability in the nation of 22 million people, where Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has faced violent street protests against his rule.

Mr Mana Ranjanj Josse, a journalist who has written extensively on the royal family, said Gyanendra was a close confidant of his late brother but was a vastly different person.

While King Birendra was a gentleman and "a nice guy" willing to accommodate several opinions, his younger brother was "hard boiled," Mr Josse said. "People who deal with him will find him to be a no-nonsense, firm man," he said.

But Gyanendra has a son who could be the crown prince and who is not regarded highly in Nepal because of his wild lifestyle, press reports say.