Mar 3, 2013


LAHAD DATU, Malaysia - (UPDATE4, 7:29 p.m.) The Sabah stand-off between hundreds of followers of the Sulu sultan and Malaysian authorities deteriorated into a deadly tit-for-tat Sunday, as both sides claimed they sustained five fatalities each. Unconfirmed reports said the Sulu gunmen had taken hostage four Malaysians. Twenty Sabahans beat to death an alleged ex-MNLF commander who claimed he had killed Malaysian policemen, Malaysian media reported.

An imam and four others were killed when Malaysian forces reportedly attacked the village of Semporna in Sabah Saturday, the camp of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III said Sunday.

Another imam was also wounded.

Those involved were not members of the Royal Sulu Army but were "supporters" of the group, said Abraham Idjirani, spokesman of the sultanate.

The supporters also reportedly took hostage four people, including two officials of Malaysian police and a civilian.

Princess Jacel Kiram, the daughter of the the sultan, said Malaysian forces entered the residences of Semporna residents.

5 Malaysian cops killed

But a report from Malaysian state news agency Bernama said Malaysian policemen were ambushed, leaving five policemen killed.

The shootout late on Saturday in the town of Semporna followed a firefight the previous day between Filipino followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and Malaysian security forces that left 12 Filipinos dead along with two Malaysian police officers.

An estimated 100-300 Filipinos have been surrounded by Malaysian police and military in the state of Sabah since landing by boat from the Philippines, insisting the area belongs to the Sultanate of Sulu.

Semporna is about 150 kilometers from Lahad Datu, where followers of the sultan of Sulu have been held in a tense and violent standoff with Malaysian forces since last week.

Gunman beaten to death: ex-MNLF man?

Villagers beat to death an alleged former member of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who was reportedly among those who killed five Malaysian policemen in Semporna in Sabah on Saturday, Malaysian media reported.

The man, described by Malaysia's The Star as in his 60s, was allegedly armed with a grenade launcher and had gathered several people at a mosque in Kg Senalang on Sunday.

Malaysian national news agency Bernama described the man as "big-sized" and in his 50s, "dressed in black and armed with a M16 rifle." The man "climbed down a hill and let off a few shots in the direction of the village,” it added.

The name of the supposed former MNLF leader was not provided.

A villager, Abdul Hani Samaullah, told Bernama the man shouted, "I'm the one who shot the police last night."

The man then allegedly kicked open doors of houses and ordered several villages to gather at an open area.

Sabah police chief Datuk Hamza Taib was quoted by The Star as saying 20 youths confronted the man, took away his weapons and beat him to death.

Malaysian authorities, meanwhile, have yet to confirm the statement of the Sulu sultan’s family that its supporters were holding four Malaysians hostage. The army has cordoned off the area and at least six ambulances were on the scene.

PH embassy appeals for calm

Meanwhile, the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur calls on the members of the Filipino-Malaysian community in the eastern coast of Sabah to “remain calm and abide by the guidelines issued by local authorities.

The embassy said: “We feel and understand the anxieties felt by many of you at these difficult times. The Embassy will work with concerned authorities to ensure your safety and well-being. This is not the time to undertake any action that might be misunderstood by some parties.”

The Embassy issued this appeal to community members in light of tensions in Lahad Datu, Semporna and Kunak.

Sabah police probe ambush

An initial report from Malaysian state media Bernama quoted Sabah police commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib as saying that authorities were investigating whether the group that ambushed the policemen were connected with the Royal Sulu Army holed up in Lahad Datu.

Bernama said the policemen were shot at by an unidentified group of about 10 members in Kampung Seri Jaya Siminul 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

Hamza was quoted as saying that the Royal Sulu Army were "cordoned off" by security forces and said police were in control of the situation.

Another Malaysian news outfit, this time, quoted police inspector-general Ismail Omar as confirming that "five police officers were killed in a skirmish with an armed group in Semporna, Sabah."

The attack was attributed simply to "an armed group in Kampung Sri Jaya Simunul, Sempoerna." said Malaysian officials are still investigating whether the ambush on the policemen is linked to the Lahad Datu situation.

Meanwhile in Manila, the camp of Sulu sultan Jamalul Kiram III said they have yet to talk to Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram since Saturday night.

The sultan said negotiations were not too late even as Malacanang said yesterday that Filipinos in Sabah should immediately surrender before it was too late.

The sultan also appealed for followers to calm down. - source


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