Hostage of Dak Lak armed group recalls captivity

By Tran Hoa   June 17, 2023 | 08:00 pm PT
Hostage of Dak Lak armed group recalls captivity
Y Dun Bkrong recalls days of being held hostage by an armed group that attacked People's Committee offices in Dak Lak Province, June 17, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Tran Hoa
Y Dun Bkrong, 19, and two others were taken hostage with guns held to their heads by assailants who attacked People's Committee offices in Dak Lak last week.

In his small home in Cu Kuin District on Saturday, Dun stared an empty stare when someone mentioned the armed groups that kept him hostage.

The murderous attacks on the People's Committee offices in Ea Tieu and Ea Ktur communes resulted in nine deaths, but Dun and two others luckily escaped death after being held hostage for four days while their captors tried to evade police.

At around 1 a.m. on June 11, Dun and five other workers were sleeping at a construction site about 500 m from the People's Committee office in Ea Ktur Commune. They woke up to the sounds of gunfire and people banging on their door, screaming at them to open it. When Dun opened the door, he was immediately incapacitated by a group of masked people wielding guns.

"Everyone get out! Whoever doesn't will be shot!" they shouted, firing a warning shot into the sky, Dun said.

"I and everyone else abided in fear. They took our phones and destroyed them, then they ordered us to bring our concrete mixer out to block the road," he said. Amidst all the panic, one worker managed to escape, but initially the other people at the construction site were forced to come with the armed group. Dun begged them to spare a husband and his pregnant wife.

So the armed group ended up taking just three hostages: Dun, Y Yung Bkrong, 18, and Dieu Nguyen, 32. The kidnappers stole motorbikes from the construction site, forced Dun to ride with Yung and an armed person, and threatened to kill them if they did not follow orders.

When the bike ran out of gasoline, the criminals led the hostages into the woods, guns still at the backs of their heads. They hid for a while until that afternoon when they fled as the police manhunt closed in on them. As the group ran from police, Bkrong and Nguyen took advantage of the chaos to escape, but Dun was still held at gunpoint and was forced to continue with his captors.

Over the next three days, the group traveled through the rugged hills of Dak Lak to evade authorities. The hostage takers beat Dun and ordered him not to walk on wet ground or break branches, fearing it would leave traces for police.

"Many times I tried to run away, but there were too many of them. They surrounded me and pointed their guns at me, so I didn't dare," Dun recalled.

On June 14, as the group hid in a field, sounds of gunshots could be heard from afar.

"The police!" someone shouted and everyone ran away. Dun was exhausted but he decided to gamble and run towards the sounds. He was rescued by police, and multiple armed people were later arrested.

Dun's mother, 58-year-old H'Nhai Bkrong, fainted when she heard news that her son had been taken hostage.

"People said the group was evil and barbaric, making me all the more afraid for my son's life. For days afterwards, I couldn't sleep any night, and continued to hope that my son would safely return," she said.

When a commune official told her on June 14 that her son had been rescued, her family immediately went to the People's Committee office to welcome him. There were tears at the reunion.

Nguyen Kien, the police chief of Hoa Hiep Commune, said local authorities had confirmed that three workers went missing in Ea Ktur the day the attacks happened, but they were not part of the group of armed assailants. They all returned to their families.

A total of 62 suspects involved in the attacks, including most of the masterminds, have been arrested so far. They said they received instructions to kill on sight and steal property.

The Ministry of Public Security has said that all "necessary measures" will be deployed to hunt down the rest of the assailants.

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