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Police hunting bandits in forest

Armed police were engaged in a manhunt in the forests of the former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Anlong Veng yesterday evening after a gang of six gun-toting bandits held up a jewellery store and shot three people.

Oddar Meanchey provincial police responded to reports of the robbery on Wednesday night and exchanged fire with the gunmen near the family-owned shop at the Anlong Veng market.

The robbers allegedly made off with a large number of platinum necklaces and earrings, police said.

Lek Sokha, the provincial police chief, said the authorities had responded quickly and effectively to the robbery, but were forced to suspend their search on Wednesday night as darkness fell.

After the search resumed yesterday morning, police collected a number of items discarded by the robbers in their desperate attempt to flee, he added.

“We checked with the victims to gather more information about the case, as we found some items of evidence left by the robbers on the road. We’re hoping [the evidence] helps us to track down the suspects,” he said.

Normally, market security guards ensure that all the stalls are secured and valuables locked away before they leave for the night, however, on Wednesday, the shop owners stayed open late while they hosted a party, according to police.

It was during the family’s meal, while a large group of relatives were eating, when the gunmen chose to launch their heist.

Six young men entered the shop armed with AK-47 assault rifles and a pistol, having arrived on three motorbikes.

Details of exactly what happened in the next few minutes – before the suspects fled when police arrived – could not be confirmed yesterday, but several shots were fired.

Keo Somnang, Anlong Veng district police chief, said that three of the party-goers were injured. Lan Kemsean, 36, was shot in the chest; Hak Hy, 36, was shot in the right thigh; and Run Sopheap, 36, was shot in the right foot.

As the police’s armed response officers arrived at the scene, a brief exchange of gunfire took place before the suspects managed to escape and police gave chase.

Yesterday morning, police resumed the search over a one-kilometre area of forest where they believed the suspects were hiding and set up roadblocks.

During the search, police found several items thought to belong to the suspects on the road, including an earring, a backpack, a walkie-talkie, and a motorbike thought to be one of the three used by the robbers.

The injured victims have been sent to hospital for treatment.

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