Insurgents in the Khmer Republic are showing their ability to adapt to government counter-action. The?
Insurgents in the Khmer Republic are showing their ability to adapt to government counter-action. The guerrillas, confronted with a formidable government counter-attack, shifted their base and continued shelling Phom Penh.
In late December, the insurgents started shelling Phnom Penh for the first time in more than two years. The government troops launched a counter-offensive in the area of the Pochentong International Airport, just North of the capital to drive out the Khmer Rouge. The guerrillas had been using Soviet rockets to bombard the city. The attack was apparently successful. The insurgents were forced to retreat.
But less than two days later, the Khmer Rouge were bombarding Phnom Penh from the south, this time with captured American artillery guns. The artillery shells proved to be more accurate than the Soviet rockets. In two days of shelling, at least 47 people have been killed and another 130 wounded. This is almost as many people as were killed and wounded in three weeks of rocket attacks from guerrilla positions in the northwest prior to the government counter-offensive.
It appears the shelling was aimed at President Lon Nol's palace. But most of the shells hit a crowded housing district about 400 yards west of the Palace. This is surprising considering that the American artillery equipment is thought to be accurate for a distance of up to six miles.
SYNOPSIS: This is only the second time that the insurgents have used the captured American weapons. The first attack from the one-hundred-and-five millimeter howitzers came only three weeks ago. The weapons were captured from Cambodian government forces. By Friday, a total of fifty-four shells and been fired on Phonom Penh.
By morning the extent of the damage became clear. It appeared the attack was aimed at the Palace of President Lon Nol. But the shells apparently fell short of their target and landed in just west of the Palace compound. Most of those that were killed and wounded were hit just as they were sitting down to their evening meal. None of the shells hit the Palace compound. Most landed in a dense residential area just west of the President's residence. Government officials claim that when the debris is searched, even more dead will be discovered.
Observers were surprised at the speed with which the insurgents managed to shift the brunt of their artillery attack from the northwest to the southern extremities of Phonom penh. The base for the barrage was only five miles south of the city.