Gunmen kill eight in Phnom Penh

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The Independent Online

Cambodia's brittle peace was broken yesterday when a gang of mysterious gunmen opened fire on government offices in the capital Phnom Penh, provoking a battle with soldiers and police in which eight people were killed.

Cambodia's brittle peace was broken yesterday when a gang of mysterious gunmen opened fire on government offices in the capital Phnom Penh, provoking a battle with soldiers and police in which eight people were killed.

Dozens of men, armed with automatic rifles, grenades and rocket launchers, were involved in the early morning attack, which appeared to be aimed at official buildings including Cambodia's defence ministry, the Council of Ministers and a police station. A civilian was killed in the crossfire.

Government officials blamed unspecified "terrorists", but played down the significance of the attack which comes after two years of relative calm. "It is the activity of terrorists, this is a terrorist group, no problem, very small," the Cambodian Prime Minister, Hun Sen, said at a summit meeting of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) in Singapore.

Some ministers blamed the Cambodian Freedom Fighters, an obscure anti-communist group headquartered in the United States. But some of the 30 gunmen who were arrested by the police claimed that they had been brought to the capital under false pretences and given guns and orders to open fire only at the last minute.

"I was asked to stay at the railway station for two nights and on the second night they handed me a gun," said Nou Sareth, 23, who claimed that he had been lured to the capital with the promise of work on a building site.

"They told me I would be killed if I refused to go with them. They gave me a gun, told me to follow them and attack... I shot only three times in the air because I didn't know who I was shooting at."

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