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U.S. group says it is behind shootout in Cambodia capital

U.S. group says it is behind shootout in Cambodia capital

November 27, 2000
Web posted at: 9:48 AM HKT (0148 GMT)

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (Reuters) -- A U.S.-based anti-communist group says it was behind a bloody shootout in Phnom Penh and has threatened to keep fighting until it overthrows the government, according to a Khmer-language radio report.

"Some forces of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters attacked the government troops in Phnom Penh...It was not terrorism. It was a real attempt to oust the government," an unidentified member of the group told Radio Free Asia, according to a transcript of the broadcast obtained by Reuters on Sunday.

"The forces of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters throughout the country do not walk backward...we will continue to (fight to) bring freedom to our Cambodian citizens until we are successful."

Police shot dead eight men after a gang flying the Cambodian Freedom Fighters flag went on a nearly one-hour rampage at about 1.00 a.m. (1800 GMT Thursday) on Friday.

The fighting was the worst Cambodia has seen since the July 1997 overthrow of then-First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh.

Police have arrested more than 60 suspects since the shootout, including a Cambodian-American apprehended at Siem Reap airport on Saturday evening, Phnom Penh military police chief Chhin Chan Por told Reuters on Sunday.

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday night called on the United States to assist in the arrest and possible extradition of the leader of an anti-communist group operating out of the United States, though he did not mention the Cambodian Freedom Fighters by name.

Hun Sen also pledged a $500 reward for anyone finding a leader of the gang that led the Friday morning attack in the capital.

The U.S. State Department said on Sunday that it was aware of Hun Sen's statements but could not confirm that a U.S. citizen was involved in the Phnom Penh attack.

"We are aware of reports to that effect but cannot confirm the information," an official told Reuters.

The United States is in the middle of a long holiday weekend that began on Thursday, and government offices do not reopen until Monday morning.

The Cambodian Freedom Fighters' leader, Chhun Yasith, is a Cambodian-American living in Long Beach, California.

Cambodia does not have an extradition treaty with the United States, according to a Phnom Penh-based diplomat.

The Cambodian capital was back to normal by Sunday, though heavily armed police and military were on hand Saturday night when Hun Sen returned from a meeting of ASEAN leaders in Singapore.

Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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