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Police Say Cambodian Gang Took Hostages to Seek Revenge

  • Kate Woodsome

Cambodian authorities say the leader of a gang of hostage-takers targeted an international school in Siem Reap out of revenge. Authorities say the deadly hostage crisis started because of a personal dispute with the father of two of the school's students.

Police in the provincial Cambodian town of Siem Reap said Friday that the leader of the gang had intended to kill the two children of his former South Korean employer, allegedly because of a violent dispute.

The hostage-takers failed to find their targets in the raid on the international school on Thursday. Instead, they took control of a classroom full of the school's youngest pupils, aged two-to-five.

A two-year-old Canadian boy was killed during the siege, as the gunmen held more than 20 students and teachers hostage for six hours, demanding money, weapons and a getaway vehicle.

Students, parents and teachers at the international school have been traumatized by the event.

Richard Veerman, the head of the mission of Doctors Without Borders, has organized efforts to help the victims and their families. "So, we brought together psychologists from two local NGOs [Non-Government Organizations], and together with our staff, we are organizing now in a center in Siem Reap counseling sessions, in order to give support to people who might have any kind of trauma related to the event of yesterday," he said.

Hundreds of people crowded around the school Thursday, watching the events unfold. Police grabbed the hostage-takers as they tried to escape, and onlookers and family members kicked and beat them on the ground.

The gunmen have been charged with the illegal detention of persons and kidnapping for ransom. They are to appear in court on Saturday.

After four decades of conflict, Cambodia is trying to redefine itself as a tourist haven. Normally tranquil Siem Reap, with its 800-year-old temples, is at the forefront of this campaign, and many of the school's parents work in the tourist industry.

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