KOTA KINABALU: A group who claimed to be resurrecting the Philippines’ claim over Sabah is reportedly behind the intrusion of some 100 armed foreigners into Malaysia, a Moro official said.
“Unconfirmed reports from our sources said that a group who called themselves the Royal Army of Sulu Sultanate is behind the unauthorised armed presence,” a Gulf News source said on condition that he not be identified by name.
Published reports said that the group of armed men aboard several small boats had landed in the remote coastal district of Lahad Datu in Malaysia’s east cost in the state of Sabah recently and that they are now engaged in a standoff is Malaysian security forces.
Reports said that the men are Filipino although officials have not confirmed this.
Asked if he had heard of the name Royal Army of Sulu before, the source said the aim of the group is to push for the recovery of Sabah as part of the Sulu Sultanate.
The Sulu Sultanate was once a powerful kingdom which influence stretched from Borneo, Southern Philippines to parts of the Visayas. During height of its power during the 1700s, the Sultanate exercised control over most of what is now known as Mindanao and eastern Malaysia.
Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila said they still could not confirm if the 100 men who are now in Malaysia are indeed “Filipinos.”
According to foreign affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez, the Philippines is conducting its own investigation into the incident.
“Our security and defence officials are in touch with their Malaysian counterparts in this regard,” Hernandez said.
Earlier, there were also reports that the armed men are members of the Sulu-based Abu Sayyaf which is fleeing operations mounted by the Moro National Liberation Front in the southern Philippines island.
The Abu Sayyaf are holding several hostages including Jordanian Baker Atyani, Southeast Asia bureau chief of the Dubai-based Al Arabiya news network, as well as two European birdwatchers and two Filipinos.
“The government is choosing to handle the issue through negotiation and to get the group to leave peacefully to prevent bloodshed,” said Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Rasak.
“We have surrounded the area and our police and armed forces have the ability to handle the matter,” said Najib. – Source: Gulf News