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Ipswich man caught up in Cambodia siege

PUBLISHED: 23:43 17 June 2005 | UPDATED: 05:56 02 March 2010

AN IPSWICH man who was working just metres away from the Cambodian school where a boy was killed in an armed siege has spoken of the terrifying experience.

AN IPSWICH man who was working just metres away from the Cambodian school where a boy was killed in an armed siege has spoken of the terrifying experience.

As Cambodian police today began to interrogate four men believed to be behind the terror, Chris Jefferson was beginning to come to terms with the horrific events.

He was fixing computers for a company based on the same road as the Siem Reap International School when the drama unfolded yesterday.

An armed gang stormed the school, taking students from about 15 countries hostage and demanding money, weapons and a vehicle.

About 70 pupils in the kindergarten class – believed to be aged between two and four – were originally captured, along with three teachers.

But after the masked gunman mercilessly executed a three-year-old Canadian boy, police raided the building and rescued the remaining hostages.

Three of the four hostage takers were killed.

Mr Jefferson said: "All through the day, the army were going up and down the road and at about 4pm there was some shots fired.

"When I was at work it was like 'Don't go outside because you're going to get shot'. There were AK47s and M16s all over the place, people driving up and down the road, soldiers everywhere and a big crowd.

"The police got all armed up and got sticks and started beating the crowd back. It was frightening, but living in the Wild West you get used to these types of things.

"We're not sure what actually happened in the end – we think it was a crack squad of Cambodian forces that went in dressed as peasants. It was crazy."

Information minister Khieu Kanharith, quoting the Deputy National Police Chief, Neth Savoeun, said the gunmen had shot the boy when the authorities had declined to meet all of their demands, then "threatened to kill the other children one-by-one".

Hours after the siege began, witnesses heard shots being fired inside the school as the police struck, before children fled into the arms of their panic-stricken parents.

Mr Jefferson, 36, who has lived and worked in Siem Reap for six months, said the dead gunmen had been loaded onto the back of truck and driven away in front of a baying crowd.

He added: "The scene at the school was absolute chaos. Cambodians have a habit of, if there's a car accident or anything like that, people gather around so there were loads of people looking on."

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