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Cambodia Arrests 3 Suspected Terrorists - 2003-05-30


Following the arrest of three suspected terrorists, Prime Minister Hun Sen is acknowledging that Islamic militants have taken root in Cambodia.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Thursday that authorities had broken a local branch of an international network of Islamic extremists. The network was accused of planning attacks in the country in the coming months.

Cambodia ordered 47 foreigners out before Saturday and as of Friday, most of them had left.

The organization, Om Al-Qura, was running a school that was closed down this week after the director and two teachers were arrested and charged with international terrorism. They were also accused of links to the terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah, which in turn is linked to al Qaida. JI is active in Southeast Asia and is believed to be behind the bombing in October on the Indonesian island of Bali.

The Cambodian premier assured Cambodian Muslims that the arrests do not signal hostility to the country's ethnic Muslims known as Cham. Cham students fled the school outside Phnom Penh on Thursday.

Teachers who came to Cambodia from the Middle East and Africa complained about the government's decision to shut the school, where some 600 Cham students from all over the country come to live and study. The Cambodian teachers said they had little knowledge of the organization's background. Pech Solin, who was the school's director for Khmer language studies, said "for me, I have my duties, to be responsible and manage the teaching. I am responsible for receiving the program from the Ministry of Education. But I know nothing about their activities or how they get funds. It isn't our responsibility."

Cambodian authorities say they were acting in part on intelligence from the United States when they cracked down on Om Al Qura and arrested the Egyptian and two Thai Muslims.

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