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Hostage Siege Tot Shot For Crying

A student from the Siem Reap International School is comforted as he stands outside the gate to the school Friday, June 17, 2005, in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The school, which was seized by masked gunmen yesterday who demanded money and weapons before being overpowered by police, was closed on Friday. One child was killed by the gunmen in the hostage taking incident. (AP Photo/David Longstreath)
AP
A man driven by a grudge against his former employer spearheaded an assault on an international school in northwestern Cambodia, taking dozens of children hostage and silencing a crying a 2-year-old Canadian boy by shooting him in the head, police said Friday.

The 23-year-old ringleader allegedly persuaded three friends to don masks and storm the school in the town of Siem Reap Thursday morning, herding a teacher and about 30 children into a classroom.

Police say the men, all in their early 20s, wanted to extort money from the foreigners and well-off Cambodians whose children attend the school near the famed Angkor Wat temple complex — the biggest tourist attraction in this impoverished country. The children, aged from about 2 to 6 years, came from about 15 countries.

The alleged gang leader said he initially planned the raid as revenge against a South Korean man who employed him to drive his two children to the school, said Prak Chanthoeun, deputy commander of military police in Siem Reap province.

The suspect said his employer recently got angry with him and slapped his face, causing him to quit his job and return to his hometown in the central province of Kandal.

"Every day, he thought about taking revenge against the South Koreans. So he bought a pistol, then called three friends from his home area," said Prak Chanthoeun.

He then "proposed that they go to the school, find the two Korean children and kill them. But when they arrived there, they didn't see the Korean children," he said.

Ou Em, head of criminal police division in Siem Reap, said police plan to charge the suspects with "illegal detention of persons and kidnaping for ransom."

He said the four are expected to appear in court Saturday. A fifth man was also arrested on suspicion of involvement even though he was not at the scene Thursday.

Police described the four as small-town gangsters looking for easy money.

"They learned there were the children of rich foreigners at the school," said Prak Chanthoeun.