The Shootout That Toppled a Monarchy

In June of 2001 the world was a very different place.

During the summer of 2001, the world was simpler. Nobody in America had to remove their shoes to board an airliner, and commercial aviation was still kind of fun. The twin towers proudly dominated the iconic New York City skyline, and the Department of Homeland Security was not a real thing. On the other side of the planet, however, there seethed a family quarrel adequate to eradicate a bloodline.

The sordid details of the Nepalese Royal Massacre make the JFK assassination seem tame by comparison.

In case you haven’t yet noticed, I’m not a journalist. I’m just a guy who likes guns and owns a word processor. Reading about the conspiracy theories that orbit around the eradication of the Nepalese monarchy makes the JFK assassination look like a first-grade field trip to the zoo. I did the best I could to tease out the details.

The Setting

The Nepalese King Bihendra was revered by his people.

As Nepal welcomed the new millennium the royal family was wildly popular. King Bihendra was by all accounts a benevolent monarch, and for the most part, his people loved him. Bihendra’s extended clan held a formal family get-together each month at their palace in Kathmandu.

The rigid social mores in Nepal exerted tremendous pressure on young royals in search of love.

The social structure in Nepal was something we emancipated Americans might have a tough time following. Labyrinthine permutations of wealth, connections, and bloodlines defined social strata that shaped marriages and subsequently perpetuated itself. Theirs was a heavily regulated caste system, and the more conservative members of the royal clans frowned upon fraternizing outside your lane.

Prince Dipendra’s love interest, Devyani Rana, was not considered proper marriage material by the Queen Mother.

On June 1, 2001, the Crown Prince Dipendra had romance on his mind and found himself in a particularly dour mood. Apparently, the Queen disapproved of the Prince’s lady friend, a young woman with some unfortunate family connections in nearby India. Traditional family values were about to clash with modern liberated sociology in a manner most chaotic. As the dinner progressed Dipendra purportedly drank heavily and smoked a fair amount of hashish.

Prince Dipendra was apparently a handful when intoxicated.

Thusly lubricated, Dipendra grew obnoxious. The official narrative holds that when the patriarch had had his fill he banished the intoxicated royal to his room.

Dipendra had a fascination with firearms. His position as Crown Prince gave him access to anything in the world.

Dipendra was a gun nerd, and he had the resources of a nation-state driving his firearms collection. He kept his primary counter-zombie stash secured within his bedroom closet. On this fateful evening, Prince Dipendra changed into camouflage fatigues and, in a scene right out of central casting, armed himself most generously before striding back into the banquet hall. He carried an ominous canvas bag over his shoulder.

Dipendra apparently initiated the slaughter with an HK MP5K submachine gun.

The prince’s cousin Paras survived the shooting and reported that Dipendra ignited the massacre by loosing a burst from his MP5K into the ceiling. He then shot his father with another burst of three rounds from his diminutive German subgun. Apparently, the berserk prince then stepped outside to assess the state of palace security.

This is the Colt M16A2 Commando used by Dipendra during his rampage.

When he returned moments later, Dipendra was carrying his M16A2 Colt Commando. Bearing a blank expression on his face he then killed his father with a shot to the head before unleashing his fury on everybody in the room. Paras estimated that the crazed 30-year-old future regent expended about seventy-five rounds before chasing his mother up a set of stairs.

The shooter also used this Franchi SPAS-12 shotgun during his bloody slog through the palace.

Over the next few minutes, the Prince supposedly wandered about generally wreaking mayhem. Along the way, he indexed to a SPAS-12 shotgun and a Glock 19 pistol. The story goes that he attacked his mom with villainous intent, inadvertently offing his brother in the process. He then messily and maliciously completed his matricide.

It appears his parents were the primary targets of Dipendra’s murderous attack.

The prince murdered another half dozen members of the royal family and critically injure a further five. The dead included Dipendra’s father, mother, brother, sister, uncle, and a pair of aunts. His bloody rampage complete, Dipendra then purportedly retired to the garden to ruminate on his sins.

Prince Dipendra’s final moments remain shrouded in controversy.

Once outside the Prince supposedly shot himself in a fit of remorse. However, he was said to have suffered six separate wounds to his back and one to his hand in addition to a bullet wound to his temple. In all my travels I’ve never seen anybody quite that flexible.

Prince Dipendra actually ruled the country of Nepal for three days…while unconscious…from a hospital bed.

Here our tale gets even weirder. Dipendra, the homicidal prince, was whisked away to an ICU and placed on life support while his body processed the memo that he was done for. He lingered for some three days during which he was actually crowned king while unconscious and dying. Despite the fact that he had slaughtered his entire immediate family and was all but dead himself the line of succession still led inexorably to him. I suppose rules are rules.

The resulting investigation was fairly cursory and as a result, failed to satisfy most.

For the three days that Dipendra reigned while unconscious, the official narrative was that the entire royal family had been killed by the accidental discharge of an automatic weapon. After Dipendra’s demise Keshav Prasad Upadhaya, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and Taranath Ranabhat, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, conducted a weeklong investigation, interviewing more than a hundred people. However, forensic data and post-mortem information were either sketchy or suppressed. All this conspired to fan the fires of conspiracy.

Regional tensions remain high in and around Nepal.

9/11 detonated some three months later, and the world lost interest in the strangest familial mass shooting in human history. Conspiracy theories threatened to shake the fragile Nepalese government apart. For reasons I don’t quite comprehend the Nepalese and the Indians apparently despise each other. Then as now many Nepalese attribute this most egregious regicide to Indian operatives. For my part, it seems that Dipendra was simply a spoiled young man of privilege unaccustomed to not getting his way. When his parents said he couldn’t choose his own soul mate he let his passions get the better of him.

The King’s brother Gyanendra assumed power for a time, but the damage was done.

Bihendra’s unpopular brother Gyanendra ascended to the throne, but the royal family was by this point most mortally wounded. Gyanendra’s surviving son Paras developed a reputation as a bit of a scoundrel and was accused of killing a popular Nepalese singer in a hit-and-run accident about a year later. In 2008 the Nepalese parliament voted 597-to-4 to abolish the monarchy. Gyanendra was given two weeks to vacate the palace, and the facility was turned into a museum. Nepal is a Federal Parliamentary Republic today.

The Guns

The HK MP5K was a specialist’s weapon designed for a fairly narrow set of applications.

The HK MP5K was a shortened concealable version of the MP5 submachine gun first introduced in 1976. Featuring an abbreviated receiver and subsequent accelerated rate of fire along with a stubby 4.5-inch barrel, the MP5K was intended for personal security details and similar covert applications. The gun’s 900 round per minute rate of fire makes it a bit of a handful, but its forward vertical handgrip greatly enhances controllability.

The M16A2 Commando, shown here in the hands of an IDF soldier, is a submachine gun version of the product improved M16A2 rifle developed by the Marine Corps.

The M16A2 was an evolutionary development of Eugene Stoner’s original 1950’s-era AR15. The A2 version of the M16 added a heavier barrel, a redesigned pistol grip, improved sights, a flash suppressor left closed on the bottom to minimize dust signature on firing, and a three-round burst mechanism in place of its original full auto function. The shortened Commando variant featured an 11.5-inch barrel and a brass deflector built into the upper receiver. Dipendra’s gun also included a 3X telescopic sight mounted to the carrying handle.

The scary visuals of the Franchi SPAS-12 shotgun placed it in the hands of the Terminator.

The Franchi SPAS-12 was produced in Italy from 1979 until 2000. 37,000 copies rolled off the lines before it was superseded by the magazine-fed SPAS-15. The scary paramilitary vibe of the weapon landed it any number of film and TV roles.

The SPAS-12 is an effective but complicated combat shotgun.

The SPAS-12 will operate in either pump or gas-operated semiauto modes and is both heavy and ludicrously byzantine. The top-folding stock is uncomfortable, and the gun’s internal polymer buffer tends to crumble to pieces over time, subjecting the receiver to an unacceptable battering. The action is reliable enough, but I find the gun to be way too complex for practical use.

The Glock 19 pistol is one of the most popular combat handguns in the world.

The Glock 19 is the runt brother to Gaston Glock’s eponymous G17 semiautomatic pistol. First produced in 1988, the G19 features a barrel and grip each one-half inch shorter than those of the larger G17. Sporting an abbreviated 15-round magazine and identical controls to the larger Glock, the G19 has been fabulously successful. As of 2007, more than 5 million Glock pistols had seen service.

Denouement

One conspiracy tale purports that Prince Dipendra was setting himself up for life after the monarchy via an arms deal that involved HK G36 rifles.

Prince Paras claims that the attack was a calculated affair driven by King Bihendra’s stated intent to abolish the monarchy, effectively putting the love-starved Dipendra out of a job. Dipendra was known to shoot lizards around the palace with assault rifles as a form of recreation, so he was quirky on a good day. There were even rumors that a kickback from a pending arms deal set to choose between the American M16A2 and the German G36 might have helped precipitate the rampage.

Nepal is best known as the jumping-off point for assaults on Mount Everest. In 2001, however, it played home to the bloodier sort.

In the West, Nepal is likely best known for its small yet fierce Gurkha soldiers and a certain unusually large mountain. However, in 2001 an apparent family squabble over a girl escalated into a massacre of majestic proportions. Whether it was forbidden love, a gun deal gone sour, or simply an ill-tempered brat behaving poorly, the resulting bloodbath irrevocably altered the course of the nation.

In the aftermath of Prince Dipendra’s assault, the Nepalese monarchy was ultimately dissolved and the royal palace, shown here, became a museum.

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About the author: Will Dabbs was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta, having been immersed in hunting and the outdoors since his earliest recollections. He holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Mississippi and is the product of a traditional American nuclear family. Where most normal American kids get drunk to celebrate their 21st birthday, Will bought his first two machineguns. Will served eight years as an Army Aviator and accumulated more than 1,100 flight hours piloting CH47D, UH1H, OH58A/C, and AH1S helicopters. He is scuba qualified, has parachuted out of perfectly good airplanes at 3 o’clock in the morning, and has summited Mt. McKinley, Alaska–the highest point in North America–six times (at the controls of a helicopter, which is the only way sensible folk climb mountains). For reasons that seemed sagacious at the time he ultimately left the Army as a Major to pursue medical school. Dr. Dabbs has for the last dozen years owned the Urgent Care Clinic of Oxford, Mississippi. He also serves as the plant physician for the sprawling Winchester ammunition plant in that same delightful little Southern town. Will is a founding partner of Advanced Tactical Ordnance LLC, a licensed 07/02 firearms manufacturer and has written for the gun press for a quarter century. He writes solely to support a shooting habit that is as insensate as it is insatiable. Will has been married to his high school sweetheart for more than thirty years and has taught his Young Married Sunday School class for more than a decade. He and his wife currently have three adult children and a most thoroughly worthless farm dog named Dog.

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Hatchetman August 29, 2019, 3:48 am

    I just want to say that I find these sordid tales fascinating and really appreciate the way you present them. The way they’re written, they have an excellent flow to them, and are great for sharing these bits of history with friends and family. Keep up the good work!

  • Michael J August 26, 2019, 12:46 pm

    More suppressed news making the light of day? What else is out there?

  • RICHARD A NYE August 26, 2019, 12:18 pm

    The prince’s cousin Paras survived the shooting and reported that Dipendra ignited the massacre by loosing a burst from his MP5K into the ceiling. He then shot his father with another burst of three rounds from his diminutive German subgun.

    OR

    Bearing a blank expression on his face he then killed his father with a shot to the head before unleashing his fury on everybody in the room

    Which one was it?

    • Will Dabbs August 26, 2019, 6:32 pm

      Dipendra wounded dad with the MP5K, stepped outside to check on things, and then returned with the M16A2 carbine for the coup de grace.

      • Stuart Perceil August 26, 2019, 10:17 pm

        Next time, you’ll just have to write it a wee-bit slower, so everyone can keep up.

  • Robert August 26, 2019, 8:50 am

    Cool story, I don’t remember it .. but at the time I was working 6-7 days a week.. thanks for a good read… AATW

  • Lance Kloepfer August 26, 2019, 8:40 am

    Very interesting report of the Monarchy of Nepalese King Bihendra and family members. The weapons used and information on the each . Very well composed, are there other articles you have written? I would be interested in reading them ?
    Thanks , Lance.

    • Will Dabbs August 26, 2019, 6:36 pm

      Lance, thanks. I write for lots of print publications but have a fairly extensive collection of these pieces here on GA. There are also plenty more upcoming in the GunsAmerica pipeline. These guys are great to work for, and I love putting them together.

      • Ejharbet September 2, 2019, 4:02 pm

        They are fascinating and ive not skipped one because i learn something new even from the ones ive heard of.a hardbound compilation is i hope in the future

  • Steve in Detroit August 26, 2019, 7:57 am

    Great story.

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