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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Several people were killed and wounded in shootings at two police headquarters in Vietnam’s Central Highlands. — Reuters pic
HANOI, Jan 20 — Vietnam has jailed nearly 100 people on terrorism charges over shooting attacks last year on police headquarters in the country’s Central Highlands that left nine people dead, state media said today.
Attackers on motorbikes stormed police and political offices in Dak Lak province in June last year in a rare incident of violent unrest in communist-ruled Vietnam.
At the end of a five-day trial at a prison where the accused have been held, 10 defendants were sentenced to life in prison while 90 others were given sentences ranging from nine months to 20 years, VNExpress reported.
Of the accused, 98 were charged with terrorism, one with hiding criminals and one with facilitating illegal immigration.
All are from ethnic minority groups indigenous to the Central Highlands, and the court accused them of seeking to “overthrow the state”. Their ages range from 18 to 56.
Six defendants are on the run and were tried in absentia. International arrest warrants have been issued for them.
VNExpress quoted the verdict as saying that the defendants had joined the Dega Soldiers group in early June 2023, gathering in the jungle for paramilitary training, including martial arts and bomb-making.
“The case was especially serious... with the terrorists aiming to overthrow the state, to establish the so-called Dega state,” it quoted the verdict as saying.
The court ruled that most of the defendants committed their crimes due to “lack of understanding”, blaming US-based reactionary groups for trying to lure, threaten or force them into the attacks.
The Dega are one of the ethnic minority groups from Vietnam’s Central Highlands, an area that has long been a hotbed of discontent over issues including land rights.
Communist authorities refer to followers of Protestantism in the Central Highlands as “Dega Protestants” — a group seeking autonomy from the state and linked to Montagnard political exiles in the United States.
Montagnards — the collective name for various tribes in the area — sided with the US-backed south during Vietnam’s decades-long war. Some are also calling for more autonomy, while others abroad advocate independence for the region.
After the deadly incident, police said they confiscated a total of 23 guns and rifles, two grenades, more than 1,000 bullets and other explosive devices.
Individuals are not allowed to own firearms in Vietnam and gun violence is extremely rare. — AFP
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