Mar 6, 2013

Lahad Datu: Sulu soldiers survived the attack

KUALA LUMPUR — “They are alive and kicking,” so claimed the spokesman of the Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram III after Malaysia launched air strikes and mortar attacks on Tuesday against nearly 200 Filipinos occupying a Borneo coastal village.

Jets pounded the area in eastern Sabah state for more than 30 minutes before hundreds of ground troops moved in to search for the Filipino armed men believed to be hiding near a coastal palm oil plantation in Lahad Datu, according to Malaysian officials, the Philippine Inquirer reported.

Abraham Idjirani, a spokesman for the Filipinos, said he spoke by phone with Kiram’s brother, Agbimuddin Kiram, who saw jets dropping two bombs on a nearby village that the group had abandoned.

“They could hear the sounds of bombs and the exchange of fire,” Idjirani said. “The truth is they are nervous. Who will not be nervous when you are against all odds?”

He said the sultan’s followers would “find a way to sneak to safety.”

“If this is the last stand that we can take to let the world know about our cause, then let it be,” Idjirani said, describing the assault as “overkill.”

Idjirani said that Agbimuddin and his men were “alive and kicking” in Lahad Datu. “The bombs dropped fell on Malaysian forces,” Idjirani said, the Philippine Inquirer reported.

Earlier Malaysia’s national police chief Ismail Omar had also raised doubts about the success of the air and ground attack, saying “mopping up” operations had yet to find any bodies and suggesting at least some of the militants might have slipped away. The three-week-old standoff has killed eight Malaysian police officers and 19 Filipino armed men.

Omar said Malaysian ground forces encountered resistance from armed men firing at them, according to the Associated Press.

Relatives in Manila said that the Filipinos in Sabah told them by phone that they survived the bombardment.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said the government had no choice but to quell Malaysia’s worst security crisis in years, sparked when Filipino militants invaded to claim the Malaysian state of Sabah for the Philippine sultan.

“The longer this invasion lasts, it is clear to the authorities that the invaders do not intend to leave Sabah,” Najib said, adding that negotiations had gone nowhere. “The government must take action to safeguard the dignity and sovereignty of the country as required by the people.” - source


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