Two gunmen and at least one hostage were killed in the course of a daylong hostage drama in the Mongkol Borei district of Banteay Meanchey province that unfolded after an apparent botched robbery at a private health clinic, provincial officials said Sunday.
Fourteen hostages were taken in the Heang Seng Hern health clinic after two armed assailants entered the three-story structure Saturday evening, Banteay Meanchey Deputy Judicial Police Chief Chhoeung Sokhon said.
The two hostage-takers committed suicide by shooting themselves in the head after police used an armored personnel carrier to force their way into the clinic following nearly five hours of exchanging gunfire, said Sar Mony, an information officer for the military police.
Seven hostages managed to escape during the course of the ordeal and another six were freed by the police, Sar Mony said. One policeman, Theun Tola, 21, was injured when the assailants hurled a grenade from the clinic, Sar Mony said.
One of the alleged assailants was identified as 19-year-old Hach Cheatra. The police were unable to identify the second, as they suspected his corpse was positioned atop a live grenade, Sar Mony said. At 3 pm on Sunday the assailants asked police to furnish them with a car big enough to fit 14 people, a request that police refused, Chhoeung Sokhon said. Police began exchanging gunfire with the would-be robbers about two hours later, he said.
Police would eventually occupy the top floor of the three-story clinic, where they found the body of clinic owner Heang Seng Hern. The assailants and hostages were forced to the second floor, Chhoeung Sokhon said. He said that judging from how the body smelled, police guessed the doctor had been dead for some time.
National Police Director-General Hok Lundy said from Phnom Penh on Sunday that the case is not a kidnapping case, but rather a small-time robbery gone awry. He said that the robbers did not sequester themselves in the building until the police arrived.
Hok Lundy estimated the number of hostages at only four or five. “First we appealed to them to come out and if they didn’t, we will use all lawful measures,” Hok Lundy said before the shooting started Sunday.
Banteay Meanchey Third Deputy Governor Pal Sam Oeurn said that the robbers had attempted to abduct Heang Seng Hern’s wife Sem Lyda. He said that the robbers tried to escape in a car belonging to clinic staff, but when police shot out the tires, the assailants dragged her back inside.
Pal Sam Oeurn said that the robbers then beat her until she appeared unconscious. When the beating stopped, Sem Lyda was able to flee the house. She was taken to a hospital for medical treatment, Pal Sam Oeurn said.
During the shooting, police arrested one of the hostages, Nget Tan Ho, 45, thinking he was one of the robbers. He told police that the kidnappers demanded that the hostages tell them the whereabouts of any hidden money, proving that the motive was robbery, Chhoeung Sokhon said.