Vietnam opens trial of 15 suspects linked to plot to set biggest airport on fire

By Hai Duyen   December 25, 2017 | 08:37 pm PT
They made botched attempts to deploy petrol bombs at Tan Son Nhat airport and at the residences of government leaders.

A court in Ho Chi Minh City begin Tuesday a rare trial of 15 people accused of plotting to deploy petrol bombs to set fire to Tan Son Nhat International Airport as the country was preparing to celebrate one of its biggest holidays.

The defendants are charged with “terrorism to oppose the people’s administration,” a crime punishable by death in Vietnam. The verdict is expected Friday.

According to the indictment, Dao Minh Quan and Pham Lisa, who led an overseas "subversive" group, hatched the terrorist plot. They have not been arrested yet.

A screenshot of the trial that opens Tuesday in Ho Chi Minh City.

A screenshot of the trial that opens Tuesday in Ho Chi Minh City.

From 2016, Quan and Lisa used social media to reach out to many people in Vietnam to set up terrorist groups to “kill all, burn all, and destroy all,” Vietnamese prosecutors said.

Last April, Lisa instructed Dang Hoang Thien and several others to deploy petrol bombs at Tan Son Nhat airport to sabotage the city's celebrations of its unification and victory over the Americans that led to the end of the Vietnam War on April 30, 1975.

The airport operation was funded with nearly VND12 million ($530), prosecutors said.

On April 22, Ngo Thuy Truong Vy and Truong Tan Phat brought two petrol bombs inside paper boxes to the airport, leaving one at the parking lot and the other at the international terminal.

Passengers at the terminal found the box suspicious and alarmed the airport security.

Thien failed to detonate the bomb at the parking lot as he was too far away, so he had it moved to the international terminal, where he successfully ignited it, sending passengers fleeing in panic.

Investigation found that in early April, Thien and his accomplices had burned down a police’s warehouse of 320 motorbikes impounded for traffic violations in Bien Hoa Town which neighbors Saigon, causing nearly VND1.3 billion ($57,300) in damage.

The other members of the group were also plotting different terrorist attacks across Vietnam, according to the indictment.

They had bought guns from Cambodia and made petrol bombs in an attempt to attack supermarkets in Saigon and residences of government leaders. They were also accused of staging protests outside the city’s Notre Dame Cathedral, investigators found. Vietnamese security forces foiled all these plots.

Terrorist attacks are extremely rare in Vietnam.

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