WASHINGTON - The United States on Thursday struck Nepal’s ruling Maoist party, which heads up a caretaker government in the Himalayan nation, from its blacklist of terrorist organizations. “The Department of State has revoked the designation of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (CPN(M)) and its aliases as a specially designated global terrorist entity,” the State Department said in a statement. “After a thorough review, the department has determined that the CPN(M) is no longer engaged in terrorist activity that threatens the security of US nationals or US foreign policy,” it added.

An estimated 16,000 people died in a brutal 1996-2006 “people’s war” fought by the Maoists against the then monarchy before the rebels turned to politics and swept to power in elections two years later.

Formed in 1994, the party was designated a global terrorist entity by the United States in 2003 and added to the terrorist exclusion list the next year.

“At the time of the designations, the CPN(M) was engaged in a violent war with the Nepalese government,” a State Department official told AFP.

The party’s “terrorist activities resulted in the death or disappearance of thousands of Nepali citizens, and resulted in the murder of two US embassy security guards.”

More recently, however, it “has participated in democratic elections, has taken steps to dismantle its capability to conduct terrorist activities, and has demonstrated a credible commitment to pursuing the peace and reconciliation process in Nepal as the current head of Nepal’s coalition government,” the official told AFP.

The Maoists won elections in the Himalayan nation in 2008 and oversaw the abolition of the monarchy.

But the party split into rival factions in June pushing the impoverished Asian nation deeper into political turmoil.

The Maoists are now running the country as a “caretaker” government with no parliament and no real mandate after the legislature was dissolved in May when it failed to agree on a new peacetime constitution.

Nepal’s Election Commission has also said it lacks a legal framework to hold elections which had been promised for November.

A State Department official clarified that both factions of the party following its June split had been delisted as a global terrorist entity and taken off the terrorist exclusion list.