Mar 4, 2013

Sabah Fighting Spreads

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Filipino gunmen ambushed and killed five Malaysian policemen as fears mounted that armed intruders from the southern Philippines had slipped into at least three coastal districts on Borneo island, officials said Sunday.

Two of the attackers were also fatally shot Saturday night, escalating tensions in eastern Sabah state, where Malaysia’s biggest security crisis in recent years began after about 200 members of a Philippine Muslim royal clan occupied a village last month to claim the territory as their own.

Security forces clashed with the clan members in the coastal area of Lahad Datu on Friday, leaving 12 Filipinos and two Malaysian police commandos dead.

The remaining clan members have refused to budge, while concerns have grown that other groups from the Philippines’ restive southern provinces might enter Sabah, which shares a long and porous sea border with the Philippines that’s difficult to patrol.

A police team was attacked late Saturday while inspecting a settlement in Semporna town, more than 150 kms from Lahad Datu, said national police chief Ismail Omar. Authorities were searching the area for more of the assailants.

Police are also investigating sightings of armed foreigners in military-style clothing in a third Sabah seaside district nearby, Ismail said.

It was not clear whether the groups in the three areas had links to each other.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Saturday that the government would offer “no compromise — either they surrender or face the consequences if they refuse.”

Police dropped leaflets by helicopter over the occupied village Saturday telling the Filipinos to give up, while the navy bolstered patrols in waters between Malaysia and the Philippines.

Three of the intruders tried to escape late Saturday and were caught, Ismail said, without elaborating.

Sabah’s chief minister Musa Aman said the federal government has agreed to increase the size of the police and army force in Sabah.

Suspected followers of Rajah Muda Agbimuddin Kiram of the Sultanate of Sulu attacked a police station Saturday evening in Lahad Datu, Sabah, according to reports reaching Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and members of his clan at Astanah Kiram, Maharlika Village, Taguig City.

As the fighting raged, the sultan had lost contact with his brother rajah muda (crown prince).

Dayang-Dayang Jacel Kiram, a daughter of the sultan, said the last time the two brothers spoke with each other was at 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 2.

As of 10:30 a.m. yesterday, there was no new contact with the rajah muda, she said.

Angry Filipino settlers in Sabah, Malaysia, have reportedly overran the town of Semporna, Sabah, Malaysia, in the wake of the killing of a religious leader and his four sons by Malaysia authorities.

As early as Saturday evening text messages purportedly coming from Semporna, a small town in Sabah’s east coast and facing Lahad Datu, claimed that Imam Maas and his four sons were killed by members of the Malaysia Police General Operation Forces (GOF).

Abraham J. Idjirani, spokesman of the Sultanate of Sulu, formally announced this in a press conference yesterday shortly after noon time.

Idjirani also said that in the wake of the killing, Filipinos in Semporna reacted by taking over a police station and grabbing over 100 firearms.

In the process, he said the Filipinos, who have been living in Semporna for a long time, also captured two high-ranking military officers, one top-ranking police officer, and one high official of Semporna town.

Semporna overlooks Sipadan island, where Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits some years ago kidnapped 21 foreigners, including Malaysians and made them hostages. Semporna means “place of rest.”

Idjirani made clear the attack on Semporna was not ordered by Sultan Jamalul Kiram III.

He said it was a reaction against the atrocities committed by the Malaysian authorities.

It appeared that the Malaysia’s GOF was looking for Datu Alianapia Kiram, a brother of the sultan, and Datu Amer Bahar Kiram, the sultan’s nephew.

The two have been living peacefully in Semporna for many years, said Idjirani, and were not part of the Sabah standoff.

Information relayed to the Sultanate of Sulu, he said, showed the Malaysian authorities were looking for the two datus at 7:50 p.m. Saturday, but did not find them.

When Imam Maas admitted that they were taking care of the datus, Idjirani said the Malaysian policemen gunned them down.

Idjirani said other information reaching them reported that Filipinos from Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and Zamboanga Peninsula have penetrated the sea blockade by Malaysian and Philippine naval forces in the two countries’ respective borders.

They are now in Sabah and have even witnessed the burial of the 10 followers of Rajah Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, he said.

Idjirani said the Filipinos who overran Semporna and took four Malaysian officers captive are not part of the rajah muda’s Royal Security Force (RSF) involved in the standoff.

The sultan’s spokesman blamed Malaysia for the escalation of violence on Sabah island.

Meanwhile in Davao City, Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chairman Nur Misuari denied any involvement in the recent standoff in Sabah, Malaysia.

Misuari denied his involvement during a late night meeting with Davao City Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte at the Royal Mandaya Hotel here on Saturday evening, March 2.

“They accused me of inspiring it,” Misuari said, adding that he was also suspected of giving finances to Kiram’s group.

“I was with my wife for almost a month in Africa. Malayo kami,” Misuari said during the meeting.

Besides, he added, he has no money to finance it. “Where will I get the money,” he added. (With reports from Edd K. Usman and Alexander D. Lopez) - source


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